Apple cracks down on COVID-19 apps, bans games based on virus

Apple is turning a critical eye toward apps that present information about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The company detailed how it is evaluating these apps; it also says that it has banned games and entertainment apps with themes related to the virus. In a statement on Saturday, Apple said, 'The App Store should always be a safe and trusted place for users to download apps.'

According to Apple, it will only allow apps on COVID-19 from developers who are 'recognized entities' like companies that have credentials on health matters, government organizations, medical institutions, and similar. Only these reputable sources should submit apps on COVID-19, the company said on Saturday.

Certain mobile apps can prove useful during the ongoing coronavirus outbreaks — they may help communities support each other, for example, or inform the public about the newest health innovations. Apple acknowledges the need to get these apps to customers quickly, which is why it says developers should choose 'Time-Sensitive Event' when submitting their app for review.

Government entities, nonprofits, and accredited educational institutions can ask for the annual developer program membership fee to be waived if they're in an eligible country and plan to offer free apps. Apple provides more information on that via its website here.

There is an exception to all of this, which is that Apple is rejecting all game apps and entertainment apps with themes based on COVID-19. The news joins a recent announcement from Apple on its plans for the next couple of weeks — all of its retail stores outside of the Greater China region will be closed until March 27 to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.