THE NHS contact tracing app is finally set to launch across England and Wales in just two weeks – and will alert Brits if they’ve been near someone with coronavirus.
Health secretary Matt Hancock today announced that the app will go live on September 24 in a boost to efforts to contain the spread of the bug.
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The app will use bluetooth technology to keep a record of which phones have spent 15 minutes within two metres of one another, and later alert people if they have been in proximity to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
It will also allow people to use QR codes when they enter venues, boosting the country’s contact tracing efforts.
Pubs, restaurants, cinemas, hairdressers and other venues have been urged by the Department of Health to download the NHS Test and Trace QR Codes ahead of the launch.
The use of QR codes will replace the current system whereby people have to manually fill in their contact details when they enter a venue.
App users will also be notified of the risk level in their local area based on the first half of their postcode.
The Department of Health said that trials which began last month found that the app is “highly effective when used alongside traditional contact tracing” to identify clusters of infection.
Health secretary Matt Hancock today described the launch as a “defining moment” in the nation’s fight against the pandemic.
He 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.”
As well as businesses in the hospitality sector, universities, hospitals, leisure premises, civic centres and libraries are also being urged to display posters in communal areas such as cafes where people are likely to congregate for more than 15 minutes and in close proximity.
The app has been beset by problems and delays.
The first version, an NHSX app, was trialled on the Isle of Wight with a view to it being rolled out more widely across the country in May.
But by June the Government abandoned plans for its own app, instead allowing Apple and Google to take over the project.
The recent version has again been trialled on the Isle of Wight and also in the London Borough of Newham and among NHS Volunteer responders.
It comes just a day after Scotland launched its own ‘Protect Scotland’ contact tracing app, which has already been downloaded nearly 600,000 times.
Northern Ireland also launched its own separate app – StopCOVID NI – at the end of July.
It comes at an important juncture in the pandemic as cases rise across the UK – forcing the Government to impose new restrictions limiting Brits to meet ups of six people.
The country recorded 2,919 new daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, and cases have started to track much higher than the levels of around 1,000 per day recorded in August.