Europe’s plan to save the sacred summer vacation depends on contact-tracing apps—but there’s a problem

But only if they are interoperable–and at the moment, that's no certainty.

Europe’s plan to save the sacred summer vacation depends on contact-tracing apps—but there’s a problem

Countries in the European Union are being urged to make their COVID-19 contact-tracing apps interoperable—for the sake of Europe’s $2 trillion tourism industry.

Very little non-essential travel between EU countries is allowed at the moment, as governments rapidly closed borders in March to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

This has contributed to devastation in the tourism sector, with countries such as Spain and Greece experiencing major hits to their economies. In the latest blow caused by the crisis, German travel giant TUI announced a whopping 8,000 job cuts on Wednesday.

Now, the European Commission is trying to get those borders made invisible again, as they effectively were before the pandemic struck. The EU executive branch does not have the power to force member states to do this—some, such as Germany and Austria, are moving independently to reopen their borders in mid-June—but on Wednesday it unveiled a package of recommendations in an attempt to pave the way for the wide return of free movement.

One key recommendation is that the contact-tracing apps deployed by various EU countries should be able to talk to one another, “so citizens can report a positive test or receive an alert, wherever they are in the EU and whatever app they are using,” the Commission said.

Using wireless Bluetooth technology, contact-tracing apps establish when users are close to one another and create a record of that event. If a user subsequently tests positive for COVID-19, they can give this information to the app so that other people, who came in close vicinity of that person, can be warned that they may need testing or quarantine.

If people are able to cross borders again, it’s not hard to see how a lack of interoperability would stymie the apps’ objective. However, each country is preparing its own contact-tracing app—and some have different ideas about how the technology should work.

The biggest momentum is behind the decentralized approach supported by Apple and Google, in which individuals’ health information is fully shielded from the governments and companies that allow apps to talk to one another. This is the approach that countries such as Germany and Italy are choosing.

But other countries, such as the U.K. and France, are currently on track to adopt a more centralized approach that would allow more integration with manual contact-tracing efforts, but that has riskier privacy implications—and that, without the support of the companies that make smartphone operating systems, could also prove buggy. “We are not against Apple and Google but we don’t want to be forced into a certain technology approach,” French digital affairs minister Cédric O told the . “States should be able to make their own choices on such a critical matter—it’s a question of sovereignty.”

European countries do have sovereignty when it comes to their borders and health systems, but a lack of coordination won’t help getting travel and tourism back on track, the Commission is arguing.

“Interoperability is crucial, so that wide, voluntary take-up of national tracing apps can support the relaxing of confinement measures and the lifting of restrictions of freedom of movement throughout the EU,” it said Wednesday.

Not all EU countries are keen on the idea of contact-tracing app use being a prerequisite for border crossings—but they may have little choice. “Let’s be honest, if Germany or France were to impose a tracing app for any Luxembourger to cross their border, how could we oppose it?” asked Luxembourg parliamentarian Sven Clement, according to Politico.

App coordination wasn’t the only measure recommended Wednesday. To support travel firms that are in big trouble right now, the Commission wants to make vouchers rather than cash refunds a more attractive option for travelers whose trips have been cancelled—it said vouchers should be protected against the travel firms’ insolvency, and made automatically refundable if they aren’t claimed within a year.

The Commission set out a framework for the safe reintroduction of tourism, including factors such as health-system and testing capacity, and is also setting up a website featuring a digital map that will give tourists real-time information about border situations and travel restrictions.

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Uber Rejects GrubHub’s All-Stock Proposal - Report

Uber (UBER) has rejected an all-stock proposal to buy food delivery company Grubhub (GRUB) for 2.15 Uber shares per share of Grubhub, reports CNBC’s David Faber. According to Faber, the two Read More... The post Uber Rejects GrubHub’s All-Stock Proposal - Report appeared first on TipRanks Financial Blog.

Uber Rejects GrubHub’s All-Stock Proposal - Report

Uber () has rejected an all-stock proposal to buy food delivery company Grubhub (GRUB) for 2.15 Uber shares per share of Grubhub, reports CNBC’s David Faber.

According to Faber, the two companies have been in discussions about a deal for about a year, but have so far failed to agree on a price.  

“We remain squarely focused on delivering shareholder value,” Grubhub wrote in a statement to CNBC. “As we have consistently said, consolidation could make sense in our industry, and, like any responsible company, we are always looking at value-enhancing opportunities. That said, we remain confident in our current strategy and our recent initiatives to support restaurants in this challenging environment.”

Meanwhile Uber wrote: “We are constantly looking at ways to provide more value to our customers, across all of the businesses we operate.” The company added: “We have shown ourselves to be disciplined with capital and we do not respond to speculative M&A premiums.”

According to Bloomberg, an agreement could be reached as early as this month. The news sent Grubhub shares surging 38%, before closing Tuesday’s trading 29% higher.

Overall, Wall Street analysts have a bullish outlook on Uber stock with 26 Buys, 2 Holds and 1 Sell- giving UBER its Strong Buy consensus. The $39.59 average price target indicates 22% upside potential lies ahead. Shares are currently trading up 9% on a year-to-date basis. (See Uber stock analysis on TipRanks).

 “Clearly this would be an aggressive move by Uber to take out a major competitor on the Uber Eats front and further consolidate its market position, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shift more of a focus to deliveries vs. ride sharing in the near-term,” Wedbush analyst Ygal Arounian wrote in a report to investors on May 12.

He also added that he “wouldn’t rule out a bidding war with DoorDash.”

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The post Uber Rejects GrubHub’s All-Stock Proposal - Report appeared first on TipRanks Financial Blog.

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