Coronavirus pandemic: Apple details stringent App Store restrictions for COVID-19 apps

Apple store sign

As coronavirus (COVID-19) makes it way around the world, governments are scrambling to contain the spread within their respective countries. Technology company are also reacting to the crisis, taking steps to clamp down on scams and misinformation.

Having already announced that all stores outside of Greater China will be closed for two weeks, Apple has now revealed strict limits on coronavirus-related apps in its App Store. The company say this is a move to try to ensure the credibility of health and safety information.

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Apple will be vetting apps relating to coronavirus very closely, and says that only those that come from government or recognized health and education institutes will be allowed into the App Store. The company is also placing a ban on games and entertainment apps that use coronavirus as a theme.

Part of the aim of the strict new rules is to ensure that not only do people have access to reliable information about the pandemic, but that it is made available as a quickly as possible. With this in mind, developers are encourage to mark their criteria-meeting coronavirus apps as being time-sensitive to expedite their review.

Apple's full post on the news and updates page for developers reads:

The App Store should always be a safe and trusted place for users to download apps. Now more than ever that commitment takes on special significance as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities around the world are depending on apps to be credible news sources -- helping users understand the latest health innovations, find out where they can get help if needed or provide assistance to their neighbors.

To help fulfill these expectations, we're evaluating apps critically to ensure data sources are reputable and that developers presenting these apps are from recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions. Only developers from one of these recognized entities should submit an app related to COVID-19. Entertainment or game apps with COVID-19 as their theme will not be allowed.

We understand the need to get these apps into the hands of customers as soon as possible. We encourage developers that meet this criteria to select "Time-Sensitive Event" on the expedite request form to ensure prioritized review since App Store review may take longer.

If you are developing an app on behalf of a client, please advise your client to add you to the development team of their Apple Developer account. If your client does not yet have an Apple Developer account, they can enroll in the Apple Developer Program. Nonprofit organizations, accredited educational institutions, and government entities that plan to distribute only free apps on the App Store can request to have their annual membership fee waived, if based in an eligible country.

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