People across England and Wales are being encouraged to download the new NHS Covid-19 app, following its national launch, to help control the spread of coronavirus and protect themselves and their loved ones as case numbers rise.
Following positive trials and detailed testing, the app launches as a new, important tool to work alongside traditional contact tracing to reduce the spread of the virus and begin to better control coronavirus transmission.
The new app features tools to support contact tracing via Bluetooth, risk alerts based on postcode district, QR check-in at venues, symptom checking and test booking – with user privacy and data security having been a key priority throughout the development period.
The NHS Covid-19 app will be available to those aged 16 and over in multiple languages.
It will form a central part of the NHS Test and Trace service in England and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme – helping identify contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.
The UK’s major mobile network operators have confirmed that all in-app activity will not use customers’ data allowance.
The contact tracing element of the app works by using low-energy Bluetooth to log the amount of time you spend near other app users, and the distance between you, so it can alert you if someone you have been close to later tests positive for Covid-19 – even if you don’t know each other.
The app will advise you to self-isolate if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable you to check symptoms, book a free test if needed and get your test results.
As a safeguard to protect individual users’ right to privacy, the system generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth (not GPS). These unique random IDs regenerate frequently to add an extra layer of security and preserve anonymity.
The app does not hold personal information such as your name, address or date of birth, and only requires the first half of your postcode to ensure local outbreaks can be managed. No personal data is shared with the government or the NHS.
Successful trials of the app have already been held in the Isle of Wight, Newham and among NHS Volunteer Responders. Lessons learned have informed the final version that is launching today.
Dido Harding, Executive Chair of England’s NHS Test and Trace Programme, said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to engage with England’s NHS Test and Trace service. The NHS Covid-19 app enables the majority of people with a smartphone to find out if they are at risk of having caught the virus and need to self-isolate, order a test if they have symptoms, and access the right guidance and advice.
“The features of this app, including QR code check-in at venues, work alongside our traditional contact tracing service and will help us to reach more people quickly in their communities to prevent further spread of the virus.
“This is a welcome step in protecting those around us.”
Simon Thompson, Managing Director of the NHS Covid-19 App, added: “We have worked tirelessly to develop the new NHS Covid-19 app and we are incredibly grateful to all residents of the Isle of Wight, London Borough of Newham, and NHS Volunteer Responders, the learnings and insight have made the app what it is today. We are now ready to roll-out the app across England and Wales.
“This new version is so much more than just a contact tracing app – it has a range of features which will quickly alert you if you’re at risk of coronavirus. The more people who use it, the better it works.
“We are confident that every person who downloads the app will be helping to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
Wales’ Health and Social Services Minister, Vaughan Gething, also said: “The launch of the NHS Covid-19 app is an important part of Wales’ coronavirus response, bolstering our 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 England and Wales, 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.”