The government has pledged to fix within a week bugs that have caused operation of its coronavirus contact-tracing smartphone app to be halted, the health minister Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday.

The free app, which was launched Friday and had been downloaded around 3.71 million times as of Tuesday morning, erroneously accepts reference numbers not issued by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, said Kato, the minister responsible for the system, at a news conference.

The issue has forced the ministry to temporarily stop the app from issuing any alerts.

People who test positive for the coronavirus are issued the so-called processing numbers that the app uses to confirm they have the virus. When working, the app should alert people when they have been near someone infected with the virus.

The issue is not expected to have caused false alerts, as those who enter nonexistent processing numbers are not considered by the app to have tested positive.

The ministry will not issue processing numbers for the moment, and aims to release an updated version of the app in a week with fixes applied.

The processing number issue is not the only problem, however. Other defects include the wrong download date being displayed, Kato said.

When individuals who have downloaded the app come into contact with one another for 15 minutes or more at a distance of 1 meter or less, their smartphones interact via Bluetooth, automatically logging the event and encrypting the information.

The record of proximity remains in their devices for up to 14 days before it is automatically invalidated. If a user tests positive for the novel coronavirus and flagged their status using the app by typing in their processing number, others with the app installed on their phone who had been in promixity to them will receive an alert.

To alleviate privacy concerns, the registration of positive test results does not require names, phone numbers or other personal information of users to be entered.

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