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Posted On: 20 May 2020 11:40 pm
Updated On: 17 June 2020 08:56 pm

EHTERAZ app: Frequently asked questions

Darlene
Darlene
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Qatar joins the growing list of countries that have released a mobile application to help speed up the process of contact tracing as part of its effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. Google and Apple even partnered to help governments and health agencies in this regard.

EHTERAZ app was first announced last April 9, 2020, at a press conference held by the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management. Starting May 22, it is a must for citizens and residents to download it. To help you with this, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions about the EHTERAZ app.

What is the EHTERAZ app and what does it do?

EHTERAZ ("precaution") is a risk detector app for the use of citizens and residents living in Qatar. It is the result of the joint effort of different Ministries in the State of Qatar. The application assists in identifying disease transmission chains, alerting individuals, and stakeholders to expedite the provision of medical support and prioritizing testing.

Users of the app will be able to learn his/her health status through QR Health Code displayed on the app.

According to H.E. Lolwah Al Khater during the press conference, "all of this information is connected to a database and if a case of coronavirus infection is discovered, the application enables the competent authorities to track the areas where this person was present since downloading the application until the moment of infection and thus all people or a large percentage of the people who mix with them can be known as long they are using the same application. After identifying these people, they will receive messages through the application that they may have had contact with an infected person and will have priority in the testing", she added.

Users will also have access to the latest developments and statistics related to COVID-19 in Qatar. Click here to know more about the features of the app and the different QR health codes.

While there is no official infographic yet that illustrates how the EHTERAZ app makes use of Bluetooth and location in contact tracing, you can find some helpful infographics from the following to help you understand how contact tracing apps work: nature.com; Google | Apple.

Do I really need to download the EHTERAZ app?

Yes. This is one of the latest precautionary measures issued by the Cabinet on May 18, 2020. According to the announcement, all citizens and residents are obligated to install the EHTERAZ application on smartphones when leaving the house for any reason. This decision is effective from Friday, May 22, 2020, until further notice.

Is your child under 18 years old? Click here to learn if they are required to have the EHTERAZ app too.

Where can I download the EHTERAZ app?

For iPhone users, you can download it on the Apple Store here.

For Android users, you can download from Google Play Store here.

How to install and register?

  • After installation and opening the app for the first time, you will be asked to allow the app to use Bluetooth, to send notifications, and to change location authorization to 'Always' from the settings.
  • Press the START button.
  • Choose language and press ACCEPT after reading the Terms & Conditions.
  • You will be asked to type in your mobile number, QID number, and QID expiration date. Press the REGISTER button.
  • An OTP number will be sent to your mobile number. Enter it on the space provided on the app to complete the registration.
  • You will then be able to see what is your QR Health Code and will now be able to use the app.

WATCH the steps here:

Which hotline number can I call to ask about the app?

For all technical related questions and inquiries, you can call the Qatar Government Contact Center 109. It is available 24/7 and available in 9 different languages. 109 QGCC is the official and unified hotline supporting Qatar government e-services.

Compatibility requirements

For Apple users, the app requires iOS 13.1 or later. It is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. As for Android, it requires Android 6.0 and up. Before downloading the app, make sure you update your phone's software first.

iOS 13.1 compatible phones are iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPod touch (7th generation).

What languages are available?

Only two languages are currently available, Arabic and English. You can choose the preferred language after installing the application on your phone.

Why are there more app permissions for EHTERAZ in Android than on iPhone?

For iPhone, these are the settings that Ehteraz will ask you to allow to access:

  • Bluetooth
  • Siri & Search
  • Notifications
  • Background App Refresh
  • Cellular Data

Compared to the iPhone, the Android version of the app needs more permissions but we must also remember that they run on different operating systems.

In a Twitter thread posted by @BoArhama, a tech columnist in Al Arab newspaper, he mentioned that he got in touch with the team responsible for the implementation of Ehteraz and that the app does not collect any user-specific information. "It also does not use any of the case-tracking information for any other purposes. The application follows the state's regulations and legislation in this regard and referred to in the application. The full text of the privacy policy will be included in the application soon.", he further mentioned in his tweet.

He also explained that the app needs access to the storage and files because it needs to put the Bluetooth identification files in the internal memory and then upload them to the application servers which is understandable and natural. He continued that the iOS system does the same.

The state regulations and legislation referred to in the About page of the application are the following:

EHTERAZ app permissions as seen on the Google Play Store information page

Why does the app need Bluetooth and location to be always turned on?

According to the pop-up text once the app is opened, Bluetooth is used by the app for contract tracing with different users of the same app for COVID-19 prevention. The MOI replied on Google Play reviews that it is used to help identify if the person near you has been quarantined or infected.

In the FAQ section of the app, it says that the application will not work without Bluetooth being enabled.

Why does it need access to storage?

According to the Ministry of Interior's reply on Google Play Store reviews, the storage permission is required to check the rooted or jailbroken device for security.

What if my phone cannot update to iOS 13.1 and up or Android 6.0 and up?

We called 109 regarding this matter and according to the contact center staff we talked to, if you cannot change your phone, there is no solution for this as of the moment as this is currently the minimum requirement of the mobile application for it to work. We have also sent an email to Hukoomi, the Qatar e-Government Portal, and have yet to receive a reply.

We will have to wait for the next update if they will be able to fix this.

App keeps crashing and showing error

The 109 contact center staff advised restarting the phone as well as uninstalling and reinstalling the application.

I'm on a visit/tourist visa. How can I use the app?

[UPDATE] JUNE 7, 2020

In a recent update of the app, non-QID holders can now register and use the EHTERAZ app.

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As the app requires a valid QID number for you to register, it is currently not possible for people who do not have QID to use the app, according to 109.

Note: We will be updating as soon as the Ministry updates about this.

My QID is expired. How can I register?

[UPDATE June 10]

After the June 6 update of EHTERAZ on Android, we reached out to 109 regarding expired QID. They said that with the new update, one can use the QID to register even if it's expired.

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As stated above, the app requires a valid QID number. According to 109, you need to first have your QID renewed. QID can be renewed using Metrash2 app or the Ministry of Interior's e-services portal. Check here for the steps on how to renew QID online.

The app is draining my phone battery very fast. Can I turn it off when I'm at home?

We have also asked this when we called 109 and were told that it is okay to do so. As long as we make sure to have it turned on when heading outside for any reason.

Click here to see the list of hypermarkets/supermarkets and other establishments that require the GREEN healthy status on EHTERAZ app before entry.

Mobile applications using Bluetooth and location sharing can typically cause a phone battery to drain. However, contact tracing apps seem to be draining batteries faster than other apps. Contact tracing app users in Australia and Singapore have been facing similar issues as well.

How can I access the app if I don't have cellular data when I'm outside?

Not to worry because according to Ooredoo, downloading and using the app will be free of charge. In addition, Vodafone mentioned that all data usage charges have been removed to guarantee that everyone has access to the latest developments regarding the virus.

What are the improvements that users want to see in the next update?

From the reviews and comments of current users, one major issue is that the app drains the battery quickly and causes the phone to overheat.

There are also first time users who keep getting error during the registration, with some having problems during OTP and with some reporting that their QID is said to be expired when it is not.

Some have also mentioned getting the error message "your phone seems to be a simulator or jailbroken".

The majority of Android users of the app are also requesting clarification on the app permissions specifically why does the app needs access to Storage and Photos, bringing up privacy and transparency concerns. Users are also hopeful for more explanation about the app, with some citing Singapore's website for its contact tracing app as a good example.

[UPDATE] May 26: Qatar's EHTERAZ app flaw fixed after Amnesty reported risk

A recent investigation by Amnesty International’s Security Lab discovered a significant weakness in the configuration of Qatar’s EHTERAZ contact-tracing app, which they reported to the relevant authorities and was fixed in a recent update.

The Ministry of Public Health also tweeted the following:

"The Ehteraz app’s user privacy and platform security are of the utmost importance. A comprehensive update of the app rolled out on Sunday 24 May with expanded security and privacy features for all users.

These updates are part of the continuous work to review and improve the app's security, including issues brought to our attention by third-party groups.

EHTERAZ is a vital component in our collective fight against COVID-19 and we thank Qatar's citizens and residents for their cooperation."

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Have you downloaded the app? Let us know your experience on the app in the comments!