HOIA mobile app

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HOIA is a mobile app that contributes to limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus with the help of the app users. The purpose of the app is to inform the close contacts of those infected with the coronavirus and, therefore, to provide them with initial instructions on how to proceed. In this way, the users can quickly find out about a possible close contact with a person infected with COVID-19, allowing them to take steps to protect their own health and the health of others.

Last updated: 14.09.2020 10:44

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Phones that use the app register Bluetooth signals from other nearby phones. If a signal is sufficiently close and long enough, an anonymous code referring to a close contact will be saved in their phone. If a person confirms their infection in the HOIA app, the anonymous codes on their device will be uploaded to a central server where all users can download them. It is not possible to identify a person based on an anonymous code. A user’s phone will compare whether the infected person’s anonymous code matches a code previously saved on their phone. If so, the user is considered to be a close contact and they will be notified with instructions. It will not be revealed to the user who the infected person was with whom they came into contact, or any other information that would allow the indirect identification of the infected person.

Last updated: 14.09.2020 10:43

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We all hope that the worst days of the COVID-19 epidemic are now behind us. However, we must not lose vigilance. The pandemic is not over, and if the movement of people increases both within Estonia and internationally, there is still a risk that the disease will spread again. This does not mean that we should put our everyday life on hold until scientists find a cure or vaccine against the coronavirus. The HOIA app is designed to allow us to be one step ahead when the next wave of the virus hits. The earlier the chain of transmission is broken, the fewer people become infected and the easier it is to get rid of the virus. Informing the close contacts of an infected person as soon as possible is an important tool in limiting human-to-human transmission, and HOIA does just that. Now that the situation is calmer, it is the best time to get to know this important tool and practice using it with our loved ones.

Last updated: 14.09.2020 10:42

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Viruses such as COVID-19 can spread before symptoms develop and, therefore, an infected person may unknowingly spread the disease. This means that by the time the symptoms appear, the virus may already have been transmitted to others, so it is not enough for symptomatic people to stay at home to stop the virus from spreading. By using the HOIA app, an infected person can quickly inform all people with whom they have been in close contact during the infectious period. In this way, app users can find out about a possible infection early on and take steps to protect their own health and that of others. Therefore, by using the app, you will contribute to reducing the number of infections in Estonia, regardless of whether you are infected or a close contact.

Last updated: 14.09.2020 10:43

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It is true that the Health Board has a team tasked with calling everyone infected with the coronavirus, finding out with whom they were in close contact and in turn informing those close contacts about a possible infection. This work is essential to limit the transmission of infection, but has some natural disadvantages. Not every infected person may be able to remember all the people they were in close contact with: some people tend to forget and some cannot easily identify them. For example, most people are unaware of who they had sat next to on a bus. Therefore, HOIA provides an important added value to the work of the Health Board, as it can also identify those close contacts that the infected person does not know or remember.

Last updated: 14.09.2020 10:44

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Some studies have shown that by using only the app, it could be possible to control the epidemic if 60% of the population use the app. In practice, it is not necessary to reach such a large number of users, as the app serves merely as one of several means in our toolbox to limit the spread of this virus. It is a simple and safe means of protection that will make all other measures more effective. It also depends on who the users are – people who move around a lot, come into contact with people potentially affected by the virus and meet more people in general on a day-to-day basis, should definitely use the app. As on average one person transfers COVID-19 to two other persons, it will not take long for one infected person to spread the disease to many others. Therefore, every user counts: if we manage to break at least one chain of infection thanks to the use of this app, we will avoid the wider spread of the virus.

Last updated: 14.09.2020 10:43

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The use of the HOIA app is purely voluntary. We do not wish to oblige anyone, but to give everyone the opportunity to help to limit the spread of the virus in Estonia.

Last updated: 14.09.2020 10:43

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The app is available in three languages: Estonian, English and Russian. In the iOS app, you can change the language inside the app. For Android apps, the first version of the app is always in the same language as your phone. The app will be in Estonian, if your phone is set to Estonian. The app will be in English, if your phone is set to English, etc. For newer Android devices, you can change the language by going to "Settings" -> "General management" -> "Language and input". You can get a more detailed instruction from the manufacturer of your phone. Future versions of the Android app shall support changing the language inside the app.

Last updated: 14.09.2020 10:42

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The app will only used to control the coronavirus epidemic in Estonia. We need to be prepared that the epidemic has more than one wave in Estonia, so the app may also be in active use for more than one period. Initially, we cannot say whether HOIA could be suitable for limiting the spread of another viral disease, but we are open to this possibility.

Last updated: 14.09.2020 10:43

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If you were notified by the app, it only means that you have probably been in close contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. This does not mean that you will definitely get sick. It is now important to stay home and monitor your symptoms. For example, if you develop a dry cough, fever, or have difficulties breathing, please contact your family doctor who will arrange for you to be tested and treated. It is also vital to remember that even if you have the infection, it does not mean your case will be severe, most people only experience mild symptoms.

Last updated: 01.10.2020 09:35

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If you have already self-isolated by the time you receive the notification and you are sure that you have not been in contact with anyone during the isolation period in a way that could have transmitted the infection, start counting your 14-day period from the day you self-isolated. If you self-isolated 7 days ago and you received the notification today, you have to stay at home for another 7 days.

Last updated: 14.09.2020 10:43

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Close contacts notified via the app will be treated in the same way as those identified by the Health Board during an interview with an infected person. According to the current guidelines, this means that if you develop symptoms, you will be able to get tested with your general practitioner's referral.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 11:54

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If HOIA detects that you have been in close contact with a virus carrier, it will advise you to self-isolate and monitor your health for 14 days. Such caution is essential to limit the spread of the virus. You will also be offered a phone number to call for more information. The app does not allow anyone other than you to establish that you have been in close contact with a virus carrier, therefore, nobody can impose a movement restriction on you. Restricting movement is a personal concern for each app user and cannot be controlled by any other person or authority.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:35

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The HOIA app functions through private communication between phones. If you are heading somewhere and may come into contact with other people, it would be really beneficial to carry a phone with the app to get the best result. You should also make sure that your phone has Bluetooth turned on.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:40

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No. Anyone can use the HOIA app, including those under 13 years of age. As the app does not process personal data, the use of the app does not require separate parental consent for those under the age of 13. However, parents will always be able to check which apps can be downloaded to their children’s phones. Due to legal constraints, it is not possible for children under the age of 13 to confirm their infection on their own in the app, but they can still use it to receive notifications about close contacts. In future releases, we will provide a way for confirming the disease of children under the age of 13.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:40

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In the interests of speed and user-friendliness, the first version of the application has been released to support only mobile authentication tools, which in Estonia are Mobile-ID and Smart-ID. This way, the app user can confirm their infection directly from the phone via the Patient Portal. In addition to confirming the infection using Mobile-ID and Smart-ID, we are creating an option to also confirm your infection during an interview with the Estonian Health Board, which is carried out with each infected person and during which no authentication is required. We advise for every person in Estonia to create Mobile-ID or Smart-ID, allowing them to use the state services even without a card reader. Read more about Mobile-ID here and SmartID here. SmartID is a free and safe smart application, it only takes few minutes to download it and set it up.

Last updated: 01.10.2020 09:35

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No, it does not. It is possible that the person you were in close contact with did not use the app and, therefore, your phone did not detect the close contact. If the other person used the app, it can still not be established with certainty that there was no risk of infection just because the notification was not received. The infection also spreads through contact surfaces, and the app cannot detect such spread. However, it is possible to monitor such close contacts manually. Therefore, if you work in the same place as the infected person, but you have not come into contact with them personally, you may still be infected, even though there was no close contact with the person and the app did not send you any notifications.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:48

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Since people exposed to COVID-19 ("close contacts") have to self-isolate in order not to spread the disease, they are entitled to sick leave if they should require it. The right to sick leave applies to all exposed people, regardless of whether they have been detected by the app or by an employee of the Health Board. Every close contact seeking to apply for sick leave, must request it from their general practitioner. In order for a general practitioner to confirm that an exposure has taken place, he or she has to make an inquiry to the Health Board.

Therefore, if the app has detected your exposure, you should notify the Health Board by calling the number displayed in the app (+372 794 3500). Upon calling, you will be put through to an exposure notification specialist in your area, who will ask a few clarifying questions and then register your exposure. After that you may request sick leave from your general practitioner.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:50

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The receipt of notifications depends on when the app requests the codes of the infected and when were you exposed to the infected. If you came into contact with an infected person on the day their infection was confirmed, the system will disclose the code of the infected person to you on the following day. If you came into contact with an infected person before the day their infection was confirmed, the system will disclose the code of the infected person to you as soon as your app requests the codes. Currently, Google and Apple application interfaces allow you to request codes twice a day.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:52

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Based on your phone model and its operating system you get weekly informative notifications, which include summarised information on the number of infections. In Apple IOS it is possible to switch the notifications on or off by selecting Settings - Notifications - COVID-19 Exposure Notifications - Allow Notifications. For Android you have to choose Settings - Google - COVID-19 exposure notifications and toggle the on-off button for activation or deactivation. These notifications are visible on the notification panel only until you click on them or swipe them left or right.

The HOIA app sends notifications to the notification panel with the following information: "New message. Open the app to read the message." Once you click on the notification it opens the HOIA app. In the case of a close contact, the main screen displays the relevant information together with a suggestion to self-isolate for a certain period of time: "You have been in contact with 1 COVID-19 carrier. To stop the spread of the virus, stay at home until xx.xx.xx." This information is visible in the app for the next 10 days. If you delete your data from the app, the possible close contact information will also disappear. If you swipe the HOIA notification off from the notification panel, you can still see the close contact information in the HOIA app.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:54

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The main function of the app is to inform and guide you if you may have been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19. Therefore, the app uses three types of information: information on close contact, information on infection, and information on code of conduct.

  1. A close contact is defined as having been in contact with an infected person for at least 15 minutes during the day and at a distance of less than 2 metres from each other. The phones automatically collect information about close contacts via Bluetooth radio signals, and the interpretation of the signal into a distance is based on extensive international research carried out by Google and Apple, among others, that have developed your phone’s operating system.
  2. Infection of people is confirmed against an external source of evidence, namely the Health Board and the Health Information System in Estonia. This means that no user can declare themselves to be infected, unless they are genuinely ill. If the phone notifies you of a close contact with an infected person, you can be certain that the person who sent the notification is in fact infected.
  3. If you turn out to be a close contact, the code of conduct displayed to you has been approved by the Health Board. In addition, you will see the Health Board’s telephone number, which you can call to ask for more information.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:56

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The use of the HOIA app does not require you to waive your right to privacy. The app can be used in such a way that no other user is aware of your infection or exposure. No government authority will be able to monitor any users through the app. If the app detects that you have been in close contact with an infected person, you can contact the Health Board to report it, but the Health Board will not collect this information through the app. If you turn out to be the infected one, this information will reach the Health Board via laboratories and general practitioners, not via the app.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:57

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As Bluetooth is technically a part of Android's locations services, they're required for the app to function. We assure you that the HOIA app will never collect any information about your location.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:57

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HOIA will send out a notification, if you have been in close contact with an infected person. This notification will not tell you who the infected person was, where and for how long you were in contact with them, or when you were in contact with them. Therefore, it is not possible to identify the infected person on the basis of the notification.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:58

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The app cannot access the information on your phone (contacts, location, etc.). If you confirm your infection through the app, the app will redirect you to the national Patient Portal, however, this portal will not return your health information to the app, but will only confirm the infection to the app server in a non-personalised manner.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:58

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A short-term anonymous code is generated for each user of the app, and it changes regularly. When you are close enough to another user, your phones exchange each other’s anonymous codes. In addition to the code itself, the phone will save for how long it saw the code and how far the owner of the code could have been during this time (based on the strength of the Bluetooth signal). If you turn out to be infected, you will be able to upload your anonymous codes to the app server, where other users can download them to compare whether or not their phone has already seen your code. The app does not collect any other information about you or your close contacts.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 14:59

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The first and most important step to limiting data leaks is bringing the amount of data gathered to a minimum. The data that the application gathers cannot be tied to a person. The information on infected persons, which is necessary for confirming an infection, is kept in the Health Information System as it has been done for more than ten years already. No new database is created for the application, thus no new data leak risks are created either. The server of the application that gets the anonymous codes of the infected persons is in the Estonian Government Cloud where it is protected from attacks. Even if somebody did manage to access the server, they would only see a pile of anonymous codes that in themselves do not carry any information. The application has been created on the principle of data distribution, as a result of which the data exchanged through the application will create useful information only as a result of the cooperation between the different components of the application and this information is displayed only to you in your phone. For more information on how to better protect your phone from possible data leaks, read here.

Last updated: 24.09.2020 16:35

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HOIA code and technical documentation can be found on the website https://koodivaramu.ee/tehik/hoia. Transparency is important for us because this is the way for everyone to verify for themselves that this application is safe, and your privacy is protected. We also believe that being open to external feedback will help us to improve the application.

Last updated: 01.10.2020 09:35

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The app requires a phone based on the Android or iOS operating system. For HOIA to function best, you need to use the close contact notification interface provided by Google and Apple. Therefore, usability is limited to phones manufactured in the last 5 years. Therefore, all Android phones that support the Android 6.0 operating system and all Apple phones that support the iOS 13.5 operating system (from iPhone 6S) are compatible.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 15:00

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For the time being, the HOIA app is only available for smartphone users. If an infected person does not have a smartphone, they are still able to notify their close contacts. To this end, the Health Board has set up a separate team of people who help the infected person to identify their close contacts during an interview and inform them.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 15:00

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The HOIA app runs in the background on your phone and requires a Bluetooth connection to function. This also results in a slightly higher battery usage. For the Bluetooth connectivity, the app uses the official application interface developed by Google and Apple. This interface tries to minimise the battery drain resulting from the use of the app and maximise the device uptime.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 15:01

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The app only needs Bluetooth for regular operation. You should connect your phone to the Internet at least once a day to check whether there have been any close contacts. During this check, a small amount of information is downloaded, which should not exceed 200 kB. Therefore, the app uses the Internet only a little, and the mobile Internet is not absolutely necessary – downloading the information needed for notifications also works over WiFi.

Last updated: 21.09.2020 11:53

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If the location services are not allowed due to the decision of the user or automatically to save battery life, then the HOIA application will display the relevant notification. Location services must be switched on in order for the app to work. You can check the settings under Settings - Location - allow Location Services. If the permission to access location is granted but the app is still displaying the notification then it is possible that the battery saving mode is not allowing to use location services.
Then you will need to verify whether the low power mode is on. More information can be found on the producers website or https://dontkillmyapp.com/

Last updated: 01.10.2020 09:35

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When phone applications are used to notify people of coming into close contact with infected persons, a centralised or a decentralised i.e. distributed approach can be used. For centralised apps, the proximity detection calculation is carried out by a central server. This means that the anonymous codes of both the infected person and the person who has come into close contact with the infected person are uploaded to the server, and a calculation is performed on the server to identify whether the respective persons were in close contact. In case of distributed apps, only the anonymous codes of the infected persons are downloaded onto the server, and other phones will download these anonymous codes. Therefore, in case of a distributed solution, the server cannot calculate the occurrence of a close contact, but it must be done by a person, i.e. your own phone. In case of centralised solutions, the owner of the app server (mostly the state) will receive slightly more information about the infected persons and their close contacts than in case of distributed solutions. Privacy researchers have pointed out that with a centralised solution, the server owner can create a social chart of the infected persons, which is beneficial for epidemiological research, but it also creates the possibility to identify indirectly the close contacts of the infected persons. With a distributed solution, the server owner cannot detect the infected person’s close contacts either directly or indirectly. HOIA is a distributed solution.

Last updated: 01.10.2020 09:35

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The close contact information apps are relatively new to the world, and the longest experience with them has been in Singapore, where the epidemic has been managed very successfully so far. The main lesson has been that the development of such apps requires close cooperation with the companies that set up phone operating systems, in order to avoid typical problems with the app performance. Therefore, the Estonian app has been integrated with the application interface developed by Google and Apple, ensuring smoother operation of the app and the lowest possible battery consumption.

Last updated: 19.09.2020 15:01

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HOIA has been created in cooperation between the state and Estonian companies. In doing so, the companies have contributed to the development of the app free of charge, as they believe in the value of this app in limiting the spread of infection and restoring normal life. Therefore, the state spends taxpayers’ money minimally, however, the state estimates that the app will benefit taxpayers, allowing citizens to react faster when there is a potential risk of infection.

Last updated: 21.09.2020 11:54

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In early September Google and Apple announced that they are planning to add universal coronavirus apps to Android and IOS systems. Currently, we have no information how these apps confirm infection and if it can be connected to the Estonian health care data information system. Therefore, it is not possible to assess whether Estonia could also start using these universal applications in the future, or should continue the development of HOIA. It is not possible to allow notifying infection with the confirmation of the diagnosis, otherwise the app could be used to spread panic.

Last updated: 01.10.2020 09:35

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More information about the coronavirus and restrictions related to it is available calling 1247 (from abroad +372 600 1247).