Baroness Dido Harding has been appointed to lead the programme of testing and tracing as part of the government’s ongoing response to coronavirus, which will include the NHS Covid-19 app.

Harding, who is also the chair of NHS Improvement, will start her new and unpaid role immediately and will directly report to the prime minister and cabinet secretary.

She will lead on the new NHS Covid-19 app; swab and antibody testing; contact-tracing; and national surveillance as well as immunity certification.

Harding said: “I welcome the opportunity to take on this role and help the brilliant efforts being made by the NHS and healthcare system to drive down infection rates and contain this virus.

“As we move to the next phase of the government’s plan, I am confident that we can use the very best of our tech, research, and people power to help keep Covid-19 at bay.”

Professor John Newton will be the professional link into public health expertise and will support the science of the programme alongside the deputy chief medical officers. His role is being expanded to allow him to ensure coordination between the testing and test and trace programmes, supporting Harding.

Health secretary, Matt Hancock, added: “I am delighted that Baroness Harding is taking on this vital role as part of our fight against coronavirus.

“Her significant experience in healthcare and fantastic leadership will be an added strength to our test and trace programme, and her work will be pivotal in our efforts to turn the tide on this virus and keep people safe.”

Harding’s appointment comes as the NHS has launched its Covid-19 app on the Isle of Wight. A key part of test and trace, the launch of the app will improve understanding of how this next phase of the government’s strategy will work for the rest of the population.