Today sees the launch of the much anticipated NHS ‘track and trace’ app that allows people to be notified if they have come into close contact with someone who later confirms that they have had a positive COVID-19 test.
Google and Apple have spearheaded much of the technology behind the app, with the privacy of the user being at the core of its development.
The app uses contact tracing technology to help protect the user by noticing and logging other nearby app uses. If any of those users later test positive for coronavirus, then the user will receive an alert with relevant advice on what to do next.
When you register on the device, once it has been downloaded to your mobile phone, the app then has access to the first part of your postcode that is inputted during the set-up.
This function allows you to get an understanding of the current risk level in your local area, which is updated by your local authorities.
The app also lets you report your symptoms which will then tell you whether or not you should seek out a COVID-19 test. You can also book a COVID test via the app.
You can also use the app to scan official NHS QR codes which will be on the outside of buildings to quickly and easily check in to the places you visit.
The app logs a history of the places you have checked into over a 14-day period. If you then have a positive COVID test, the app will notify anyone else who has been in the same venue that they have probably been close to somebody who has later tested positive for COVID. The app will then advise you on what you should do next.
None of your personal details is shared with other users – the app functions anonymously using a code that is specific to your phone.
Venue data is stored on the phone for 21 days before being automatically deleted. You can also delete the stored data whenever you want.
The app also has a section that takes you to all of the latest advice regarding COIVD-19, including all of the latest rules and regulations regarding social distancing.
The app can work out if you have been near to somebody who later tests positive for COVID because it analyses the Bluetooth signal, which is transmitted by other phones.
If, for example, you are a healthcare professional treating COVID-19 patients, then there is an option within the app that allows you to ‘pause’ the tracking feature.
The more people who download the free app then, the more effective it will be, which is crucial at a time when the UK is facing high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases.
On Wednesday 23rd September, 6,178 people tested positive for the deadly disease, which is the highest number of positive tests since the peak of the first wave that resulted in tens-of-thousands of deaths.
Download via the App store: https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/nhs-covid-19/id1520427663
Download via Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.nhs.covid19.production