NHS Covid-19 app to be updated to cut isolation alerts

  • 13 July 2021
NHS Covid-19 app to be updated to cut isolation alerts

The NHS Covid-19 app is set to be updated to send out fewer isolation alerts.

It comes as the government confirmed it will scrap the one metre social distancing rule when Covid restrictions end on July 19.

Currently the app works by detecting time and distance between devices, currently set to 15 minutes and two metres or less. But transport secretary Grant Shapps has said the app may need to be updated in line with coronavirus restrictions easing.

The BBC has reported the team behind the contact-tracing app have been told to adjust the measurements to ensure fewer alerts are sent out, with the changes taking place next Monday.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said health secretary Sajid Javid is considering advice on the app, adding that Covid-19 measures, including the app, would be kept under constant review in line with clinical advice.

“The app is doing exactly what it was designed to do – informing close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 that they are at risk and advising them to isolate,” they said.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast last week Shapps said the app was designed to “stay in line” with coronavirus rules and suggested it would be updated when restrictions are ended on July 19.

He said any updates would ensure the app “continues to provide useful advice based on the rules and the guidance that are in place at that given time”.

It comes as more than 350,000 people in England were advised by the app to self-isolate in the last week of June.

The app, which has so far been downloaded more than 26 million times, allows users to anonymously share their test result with people they have come into close contact with should they test positive.

Other users will then receive a notification advising them to self-isolate for up to 10 days.

The UK is currently experiencing a spike in Covid-19 infections, with latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) data suggesting one in every 160 people in England has the virus – up from one in 250 the previous week.

The NHS Covid-19 app, which currently allows users to ‘check-in’ at venues, was touted as an integral part of Test and Trace efforts when it was first launched. The government is now looking at scrapping the requirement to check-in at venues using the app.

£10m extension

The developer of the NHS Covid-19 app has recently been awarded a £10million six-month extension to continue delivering the contact-tracing services.

Swiss firm Zühlke Engineering will continue to build and operate the NHS Test and Trace app and supporting systems, including the app’s cloud services, public dashboard, and QR-code posters.

A procurement contract published in May, valued at £10.26million, began on March 15 2021 and is valid until September 30 2021. It takes the cumulative total of contracts award to Zühlke for development and support of the contact-tracing app to more than £22m.

Zühlke will be required to provide “ongoing analysis, design and development of new features” as well as “response, recovery and resolution of production incidents” relating to the app.

Wolfgang Emmerich, founder of Zühlke Engineering, previously told Digital Health News the app would be an “important pillar” in controlling the spread of Covid-19 as England comes out of lockdown.

He said the app has been updated frequently since its launch “as policy and science changes” and will continue to be updated as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Sign up

Related News

Digital Health Coffee Time Briefing ☕

Digital Health Coffee Time Briefing ☕

This edition of Digital Health's Coffee Time Briefing includes the launch of Samsung's Galaxy Ring with intelligent tracking.
Getting the best out of population health requires learning health systems

Getting the best out of population health requires learning health systems

A rapidly evolving digital infrastructure offers potential for population health speakers told a session at Digital Health Rewired24 earlier this month. 
Digital Health Coffee Time Briefing ☕ 

Digital Health Coffee Time Briefing ☕ 

Today's briefing includes a House of Commons science committee calling for further development of bacteriophages and Epic planning a wave of AI innovations.


  • Defeats the object of the app if you make it less sensitive doesnt it? c250k cases in last week with, c350k pings would suggest not sensitive enough if R for Delta as estimated by some is c6. Plus, 15 mins was always too long anyway, more so if Delta spreads in fleeting passes rather than prolonged contact.

    But hey ho, let’s live with it, let the virus run rampant, drop face masks and all be personally responsible…

Comments are closed.