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How does the NHS app work?

How does the NHS app work?

We're 6 weeks into the Coronavirus lockdown in the UK and as such, many people will be wondering what happens next. 

Lockdown can't last forever, and it seems that the next stage, whenever it begins, will involve the gradual easing of restrictions, continued social distancing and contact tracing. One piece of technology being trialled to assist in this new stage is the NHS app - but what does it do and how does it work?

 

What is the app?

The NHS contact-tracing app is expected to be rolled out over the coming weeks, starting with trials on the Isle of Wight this week. The app, which will be available for members of the public to voluntarily download on their smartphones, will let people know if they have been in close contact with someone who later reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19.

 

So how does it actually work?

The app works using Bluetooth signals. In order for the app to work, you must have Bluetooth enabled. Use the arrow keys below to navigate through a made-up scenario;

 

Is the app secure?

Questions have of course been raised about the security of the app and users' privacy. 

Data from the app will not be linked to people's names but instead anonymous IDs. If someone is alerted that they have come into close contact with someone who now has the virus, they will not be told who that person is. 

Users will be asked to share the first digits of their postcode, but GPS technologies are not currently used in the app to track people's whereabouts.

 

Are similar apps being used elsewhere?

Yes. Other countries have also been rolling out similar apps to their citizens. The Australian government has launched an app called Covidsafe in an effort to automate Coronavirus contact tracing.   

In Singapore, an app called TraceTogether has been rolled out and downloaded over 800,000 times so far.

 

When can I download and start using the app?

The app is currently only available for use on the Isle of Wight as testing on it continues. If the app proves successful, it is expected to be rolled out to the rest of the UK in the coming weeks.