COCOA is coming to a close in the latest relaxation of coronavirus countermeasures in Japan.

Capitalization makes a big difference. For example, an announcement that there will be no more cocoa would, of course, be cause for despair for anyone with a love of hot, sweet beverages. On the other hand, hearing that COCOA is ending could be taken as a positive development.

The all-caps COCOA we’re talking about is the acronym for Japan’s COVID-19 Contact-Confirming Application. The government-administrated contact-tracing app was launched in June of 2020, but at a press conference on Tuesday Minister of Digital Affairs Taro Kono said that COCOA will be shutting down.

Though COCOA got off to a slow start, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno says that it was eventually downloaded approximately 40 million times. The smartphone app worked by coordinating with the phones of other users, creating an anonymous list of those you had been in close proximity with for more than 15 minutes, then notifying everyone in that chain if someone reported testing positive for the coronavirus.

Kono claims, though, that the need for such close monitoring has sufficiently decreased compared to two years ago. The Minister of Digital Affairs also acknowledged that the app itself did not always work as intended, with reported failures to properly notify users who had been in contact with someone later found to be infected, and that a thorough review of COCOA’s effectiveness will be performed in order to make improvements should another pandemic occur in the future that necessitates a new contact-tracing app.

A timetable for COCOA’s shutdown will be announced soon. In the meantime, though, Kono asks users to not delete it just yet, as a feedback survey for users, via the app, will also be coming in the near future.

As for how this development could be a good thing, assuming Kono’s assessment that COCOA is no longer needed is accurate, it’s yet another sign of life returning to normal in Japan, and the implication that relaxing diligence against potential infection vectors is permissible bodes well for Japan’s long-awaited reopening to individual international tourism.

Source: Jiji Medical via Hachima Kiko, NHK News Web
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