The NHS COVID-19 app is launching in England and Wales today with the ability to notify people if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the Coronavirus.
Described as ‘a vital part of the NHS Test and Trace service in England, and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service’, the app is available to download for free from the App Store and Google Play Store.
The app has a number of features including;
- Trace – the app will alert people if they’ve been near other app users recently for 15 minutes who have tested positive for COVID-19
- Alert – the app will tell people the Coronavirus risk in their postcode district
- Check-in – app users will be able to scan NHS QR code posters at the entrances of some venues in order to ‘check-in’ App users may be alerted if someone who also visited the venue at the same time also tests positive for COVID-19
- Symptoms – the app will help users check their symptoms and see if they need to order a test
- Test – the app will help users book a test and get their test result
- Isolate – the app will provide a self-isolation countdown and advice for those self-isolating
The launch of the app comes following technical problems with the first version of the app which was developed earlier this year. In May, a first version of the app was piloted on the Isle of Wight but was later abandoned due to the app not working effectively. The UK Government then changed to a model developed by tech giants Apple and Google, which the app launched today uses.
During the year, some privacy concerns have been raised about potential contact tracing apps. In a section on the app’s support website though, it is confirmed that the new NHS COVID-19 app cannot use your GPS location. The app also cannot be used to check if people are self-isolating, or be used by law enforcement.
The app also does not hold personal infromation such as users’ names or addresses.
A campaign has been launched in England to encourage people to use the app and in Wales, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has also enocuraged people to download the app;
“The launch of the NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of Wales’ coronavirus response, supporting the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme. The more people who download and use this app, the more it will help us to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We have worked closely with the app development team to ensure it works seamlessly across Wales and England, providing people with the right advice based on where they live. In Wales, the app will complement our existing contact tracing and testing services and will further support our co-ordinated response to COVID-19 at both a local and national level.
“I strongly encourage everyone in Wales to download and use the app to keep Wales safe.”
Anyone aged 16 over can download the app. Guidance and support on downloading and using the app can be found at covid19.nhs.uk.