The NHS Covid-19 contact-tracing app is set to launch across England and Wales in two weeks.
The app will officially be rolled out on 24 September after months of setbacks, including a U-turn on the original operating model.
It uses Bluetooth technology to track time and distance between smartphone devices. It also offers a QR code check-in capability, allows users to book a free test and has an isolation countdown timer to remind people to quarantine.
The government is urging businesses including pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas to ensure they display the NHS QR code posters on entry so customers who have downloaded the app can use their smartphones to easily check-in.
This is designed to allow NHS Test and Trace to contact customers with public health advice should there be a Covid-19 outbreak.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “We need to use every tool at our disposal to control the spread of the virus including cutting-edge technology. The launch of the app later this month across England and Wales is a defining moment and will aid our ability to contain the virus at a critical time.
“QR codes provide an easy and simple way to collect contact details to support the NHS Test and Trace system.
“It is vital we are using the NHS Test and Trace system to reach as many people as possible to prevent outbreaks and stop this virus in its tracks. This function will make it simple and easy so we can keep this virus under control.”
Once a QR code is scanned information will remain on a user’s phone for 21 days.
If an outbreak is identified the venue ID will be sent to all devices that have the app downloaded. It will then check if users have visited that venue and, if they have, provide an alert with advice on what to do.
Simon Thompson, managing director of the NHS Covid-19 App, added: “The QR system is a free, easy and privacy preserving way to check-in customers to venues, and we encourage all businesses to get involved and download and display the official NHS QR code posters.”
The app is based on Apple and Google’s decentralised model. NHSX has been working with the tech giants to develop a new version of the app after abandoning its original model in June.
Both versions of the app use Bluetooth to track time and distance between smartphone devices, but Apple and Google’s version was hailed as more privacy-centric as it only sends alerts between devices when Covid-19 is detected, rather than large quantities of data being stored on a central database.
New trails of the revamped contact-tracing app was launched in August on the Isle of Wight, in the London borough of Newham and among NHS volunteers.
The trials have shown the app is “highly effective when used alongside traditional contact tracing”, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
Vaughan Gething, Wales health minister, said: “The launch of the NHS Covid-19 app is an important part of coronavirus response, supporting Test, Trace, Protect here in Wales, and the Test and Trace programme in England. Working on a joint England and Wales basis is the most practical option here, as we know there is a lot of movement across our shared border.
“The Welsh Government has worked closely with the NHS App team to ensure the app is easy-to-use and gives people the right advice and guidance, tailored to the country they reside in.”
A long wait
Since NHSX first confirmed in March it was working on a contact-tracing app it has been plagued by criticism and privacy concerns.
Shortly after NHSX revealed they were working on a contact-tracing app, tech giants Apple and Google announced they were joining forces in the fight against Covid-19 to provide a solution that would be interoperable with both iOS and Android devices.
Despite privacy concerns NHSX launched a trial of its contact-tracing app on the Isle of Wight in the first week of May, with a national roll-out date expected by mid-May.
Concerns were flagged during the initial trial of NHSX’s version after it was found to have poor success rates in tracking proximity to other devices, leading experts to suggest it could cause people to quarantine unnecessarily.
After weeks of silence, the government finally announced on 18 June it was abandoning its contact-tracing app and would instead be working with Apple and Google to develop a new version – something experts had been urging for months. A trial of a revamped app, based on Apple and Google’s technology, was launched on 13 August.
The ongoing issues faced by NHSX have not prevented other countries from releasing their own contact-tracing app, many based on Apple and Google’s technology from the offset. Recently, Northern Ireland became the first country in the UK to release its contract-tracing app, which uses the exposure notification APIs developed by Apple and Google. NHS Scotland became the second country to release its contact-tracing app on 10 September.
For a more in-depth look at the contact-tracing app and what went wrong take a look at our timeline of events here.
23 September 2020 @ 15:57
It is time this nonsense is stopped
Status of COVID-19
As of 19 March 2020, COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the UK.
The 4 nations public health HCID group made an interim recommendation in January 2020 to classify COVID-19 as an HCID. This was based on consideration of the UK HCID criteria about the virus and the disease with information available during the early stages of the outbreak. Now that more is known about COVID-19, the public health bodies in the UK have reviewed the most up to date information about COVID-19 against the UK HCID criteria. They have determined that several features have now changed; in particular, more information is available about mortality rates (low overall), and there is now greater clinical awareness and a specific and sensitive laboratory test, the availability of which continues to increase.
The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) is also of the opinion that COVID-19 should no longer be classified as an HCID.
The need to have a national, coordinated response remains, but this is being met by the government’s COVID-19 response.
Cases of COVID-19 are no longer managed by HCID treatment centres only. All healthcare workers managing possible and confirmed cases should follow the updated national infection and prevention (IPC) guidance for COVID-19, which supersedes all previous IPC guidance for COVID-19. This guidance includes instructions about different personal protective equipment (PPE) ensembles that are appropriate for different clinical scenarios.
23 September 2020 @ 11:32
okay I have my QR CODE POSTERS ready…however when I go onto the app it asks for a unique code, where do I get this from please?
22 September 2020 @ 22:50
Singapore has begun to hand out Bluetooth-enabled get in touch with tracing gadgets as portion of its steps to sluggish the spread of the coronavirus.
The so-called TraceTogether tokens are an different to the government’s speak to tracing smartphone app.
They are aimed at persons that do not very own or favor not to use a mobile mobile phone.
The announcement of the product was met with considerations in some quarters about privacy.
The to start with batch of the gadgets are getting dispersed to vulnerable elderly persons who have minimal or no household help or have mobility challenges.
The tokens have exclusive QR codes and do not need charging as they have a battery everyday living of up to 9 months.
The products do the job by exchanging Bluetooth indicators with other close by TraceTogether tokens or smartphones that are operating the TraceTogether app.
End users will be alerted by a contact tracing officer if they are detected to have been in the vicinity of another person contaminated with the coronavirus.
If they are then verified to have contracted Covid-19 the knowledge will be downloaded from the unit.
23 September 2020 @ 22:47
The app will change tomorrow when it goes live
22 September 2020 @ 07:06
That’s a crazy statement to make, the older phones have older hardware in them, yes they do have Bluetooth but not the latest and also they do not have the chipsets in them for measuring the distance between phones. What do you want the NHS to do put new hardware in your phone as well. It’s the same as some new laptops can do things older ones can’t it’s the hardware within your device. Hardware makes it possible just like the app won’t work on an old Nokia
22 September 2020 @ 07:39
Hi Steve. It’s my opinion, if that’s your opinion I feel you could have expressed slightly more kindly. I am 69 years old and no technical wizard. Please just for one second imagine how many people out there who where really looking forward to being able to use this app. Now can not do so because they have slightly older phones. I will not just go and buy a new phone just to be able to use the app. I suspect there will be thousands in the same position. If the app could not be designed for the older technology then perhaps we could have been forewarned. Just got your information, I do not expect the government to buy me s new phone.
21 September 2020 @ 22:55
Agree with first comment. This app. should be available to all!
21 September 2020 @ 22:22
My iPhone is not a late enough model to download the app. It’s a good phone iPhone 6 but not later enough to get the app. Do you guys not think that’s crazy. I would have to invest 1000 pounds to by a new iPhone to use your app. Give me strength.
22 September 2020 @ 10:14
The iPhone 6 is a six year old device now that also doesn’t receive the latest software updates and so is vulnerable from a security standpoint. The technology is built into a newer version of the operating system which your phone doesn’t support. However, no one is forcing you to upgrade. Even if you want to upgrade, the cheapest iPhone (which will be far faster and more powerful than yours) is £429, not £1000, and there are Android phones for far less than even that that will do the same thing. Get a grip.
22 September 2020 @ 18:31
Dear Bill, I just would like to say I thought the idea of this forum was to post comments as you saw them. I have my point of you you have yours. I can respect your view point but I fail to see how comments like “get a grip” add anything to this forum. The previous reply comment started with the comment “that’s a crazy statement to make’” I really feel that I don’t understand what this does to help. Perhaps you could consider that your comments where perfectly valid until you last comment which is personal. Also the previous reply was no problem and has the same effect if you remove the first comment. Why is it you guys feel that this is okay. If people ask for my help I don’t start or finish my advice with a put down. Or am I just old fashioned.