Microsoft is working on a life and death contract, with the Japanese government having contracted them to build their COVID-19 contact tracing app.

The app is being expedited and may debut as soon as this week, reports Nikkei.

“We wanted to introduce the app when the sense of urgency was high among the public, but we did not make it in time,” a government source involved in the discussions said.

The app is built on Apple and Google’s contract-tracing API, and will be released as soon as the two companies approve it.

Apple and Google’s contact-tracing API has been shown to be 99% effective in detecting extended proximity and is increasingly replacing home-grown, less effective and more battery-draining efforts by other developers using more open APIs.

Japan turned to Microsoft after their original plans to tender a development team saw increasing delays.

The app will need to be rolled out widely, to around 60% of users, which would be quite a feat.

“A concrete plan for disseminating the app has yet to take shape,” a spokesperson for Japan’s health ministry said.

The app is expected to be used with a light touch, with potential contacts being advised, but not forced, to stay home.

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