People who have downloaded Scotland’s contact-tracing app can continue using the app if they travel to Northern Ireland or Jersey.
The Scottish government has announced it has interlinked its Protect Scotland app to make it interoperable in the three areas.
Through developing its own ‘federated server’ the Scottish government is ultimately hoping to allow all contact-tracing apps in the UK, other Crown dependencies and Gibraltar to work with each other for the first time.
From 28 October the first phase of this interoperability means that Protect Scotland will continue working when people are required to travel for essential reasons to Northern Ireland and Jersey.
Those who have downloaded the app do not need to do anything for this function to work. Their phone will be able to connect to the relevant apps in those places and continue to alert users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Alerts will also be send to users of Northern Ireland’s StopCovid NI app or Jersey’s Covid Alert app if someone using Scotland’s app tests positive in Scotland but has recently been in close contact with people in those areas.
Scotland’s health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “This is an important step in helping further reduce the spread of the virus. While people are being advised to travel less at the moment, this compatibility will allow those having to travel for essential reasons to continue to be alerted via the Protect Scotland app if they have been in close contact with a positive Covid-19 case while in Northern Ireland or Jersey.
“There will be no need to download the Northern Irish or Jersey app, instead the Protect Scotland app will speak to those apps behind the scenes.”
An agreement has been reached to allow the NHS Covid-19 app, used in England and Wales, and Beat Covid Gibraltar to join Scotland’s federated server in early November, making the apps interoperable throughout the UK.
The server also provides the potential for other apps used in Europe and other countries to work with Protect Scotland.
Freeman added: “More than 1.5 million people have downloaded Protect Scotland since it was launched last month and more than 10,000 people have been contacted via the app to let them know they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. This allows people to self-isolate quickly if they have been exposed to the virus, reducing the risk of them infecting others.”
The app, based on Bluetooth technology, anonymously alert users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, and advises them to self-isolate.
It was designed by software developers NearForm using the same technology as the Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish contact-tracing apps, based on Ireland’s Covid Tracker code.
Cian Ó Maidín, NearForm’s chief executive, said: “Covid-19 doesn’t recognise borders and we’re seeing more countries and states collaborate in this effort to provide an additional layer of protection for people travelling between jurisdictions.
“The app puts the power in people’s hands to protect themselves and others while helping to slow the spread of Covid-19.
“As many countries continue to see a surge in Covid-19 cases, mask, track and trace is the only way to combat the virus at the moment, and these apps can dramatically reduce the time taken for people to self-isolate, get tested or seek further advice, breaking transmission chains.”
Scotland was the second country in the UK to launch its contact-tracing app. Northern Ireland became the first country in the UK to launch a contact-tracing app in August.
The NHS Covid-19 App for England and Wales was launched on 24 September.
The code for Ireland’s Covid Tracker app was made public in July as part of an open source programme to help global public health authorities tackle the pandemic.