The Department of Health and Social Care has said that a covid-19 contact tracing app will be available across England and Wales on 24 September. Launch of the app has been delayed while NHSX initially tried to develop a centralised system in which anonymised data from people with covid-19 symptoms could be held on an NHS database.
The UK government was forced to make a U turn in June after testing in the Isle of Wight found the app only recognised 4% of Apple phones and 75% of Google’s android devices. It has since been developing a decentralised model that uses the Apple and Google application programming interface but incorporates extra features. This has been tested over the past month in the Isle of Wight and the London borough of Newham.
All the apps use Bluetooth to 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. They do not store details on an individual or their location but use encrypted, anonymised codes exchanged between smartphones to determine close contacts—defined as people who have been within two metres of someone who has tested positive for 15 minutes.
The covid-19 app to be launched in England and Wales will allow people to scan QR codes to check in at venues and if someone later tests positive for covid-19 who has visited the same establishment they will be alerted. The app will also send alerts to let users know the level of coronavirus risk in their postcode district, can be used to book a covid-19 test, and includes a symptom checker.