England and Wales will have an NHS Covid-19 app to enable control of the coronavirus transmission, together with national and local contact tracing.
As of today, businesses will be required by law to display the official NHS QR code posters, in order for people to check-in at different premises within the app.
The features include contact tracing using Bluetooth, risk alerts based on postcode district, QR check-in at venues, symptom checker and test booking – with user privacy and data security at its heart.
After positive trials and rigorous testing, the app promises to be an important resource to work alongside traditional contact tracing to help reduce the spread of the virus.
It will be available to those aged 16 and over in multiple languages. It forms a central part of the NHS Test and Trace service in England and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme – identifying contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.
As part of a major campaign to encourage downloads of the app a new advertisement will launch on primetime TV tonight with the strapline “Protect your loved ones. Get the app”.
Today the UK’s major mobile network operators, including Vodafone, Three, EE and O2, Sky and Virgin, have confirmed that all in-app activity will not come out of customers’ data allowance.
The contact tracing element of the app works by using low-energy Bluetooth to log the amount of time you spend near other app users, and the distance between you, so it can alert you if someone you have been close to later tests positive for COVID-19 – even if you don’t know each other.
The app does not hold personal information such as your name, address or date of birth, and only requires the first half of your postcode to ensure local outbreaks can be managed. No personal data is shared with the government or the NHS.
Good to know:
The app will advise you to self-isolate if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable you to check symptoms, book a free test if needed and get your test results.
The app has been designed with user privacy in mind, so it tracks the virus not people, and uses the latest in data security technology to protect privacy. The system generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth (not GPS). These unique random IDs regenerate frequently to add an extra layer of security and preserve anonymity.
What UK Government Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“We are at a tipping point in our efforts to control the spread of this virus. With infection rates rising we must use every tool at our disposal to prevent transmission, including the latest technology.
“We have worked extensively with tech companies, international partners, and privacy and medical experts – and learned from the trials – to develop an app that is secure, simple to use and will help keep our country safe.
“Today’s launch marks an important step forward in our fight against this invisible killer and I urge everyone who can to download and use the app to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
Who built the app?
The NHS Test and Trace team behind the app has worked closely with major tech companies, including Google and Apple, scientists within the Alan Turing Institute and Oxford University, Zuhlke Engineering, medical experts, privacy groups, at-risk communities and teams in countries across the world using similar apps – such as Germany, to develop an app that is safe, simple and secure.
The app has been through successful trials in the Isle of Wight, Newham and among NHS Volunteer Responders and lessons learned have informed the final version that is launching today.
What else does the app do?
- ALERT: It will users know the level of coronavirus risk in their postcode district
- QR CHECK-IN: Users can check-in at a venue, alerting them if they have recently visited somewhere they may have come into contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19
- SYMPTOMS: It will allow users to check if they have coronavirus symptoms and see if they need to order a free test
- TEST: It will help users book a free test through the app and get results to know whether they have COVID-19
- ISOLATE: if a user is told to self-isolate, a timer feature will help count down that period and access will be provided to relevant advice
For further information and to download the app, click here.