Be aware of what Coronavirus apps you download

In order to combat misinformation, Apple and Google are cracking down on Coronavirus apps that have popped up since the worldwide outbreak. Here’s what you need to know.

When you search for Coronavirus apps on your Apple iStore or Google App store, you will most likely find a few new apps that claim to have information about the Coronavirus outbreak. On the Google Play store, the search yields no results. This is because Apple and Google have announced that they will be restricting the publishing of apps that claim to be related to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to a new report by CNBC, Apple says it will not allow apps that aren’t from recognized institutions like governments or hospitals. It will reject COVID-19 coronavirus apps that allow people to see stats from different countries even if these apps use public data from reliable sources like the World Health Organization (WHO) to create dashboards or live maps.

CNBC reported that one developer had said that an Apple employee explained to them over the phone that anything related to the coronavirus must be released by an official health organization or government. “Apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution,” said another developer who received a written response from Apple.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) stats from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on 11 March.

The restrictions seem to be working because search results are showing little to no apps and no spam problem. On 11 March, 13 cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed in South Africa from people who arrived in SA between 7 to 9 March from Europe. This number has risen to 17 people as of today (12 March). Unlike countries like India, South Africa has managed to keep the spread of misinformation at a minimum with government dispelling myths and disseminating the correct information to the public via media outlets, press conferences, an information centre, as well as social media platforms.

While Apple has allowed certain apps to be available on its app store, these are mainly a virus tracker, a medical resource company and a Portuguese language app. Google appears to be deliberately blocking search results for COVID-19, but it is not yet known whether this is an outright ban on Coronavirus related apps.

Approved apps with Coronavirus information include the American Red Cross, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Doctor On Demand, as well as news apps like the official Twitter Android app and News 360.

The South African government has urged people to combat misinformation and contact the Coronavirus information centre should they have any questions.