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The New NHS Contact-Tracing App Is Launched Today - How Does It Work?

Jess Hardiman

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| Last updated 

The New NHS Contact-Tracing App Is Launched Today - How Does It Work?

The long-awaited NHS contact-tracing app is finally being rolled out across England and Wales today, with people urged to download it to help track coronavirus as cases continue to rise.

According to The Guardian, the app has been 'substantially rebuilt' from the version first tested on the Isle of Wight in May (remember that?!), having been given two significant changes.

The first is a 'new underpinning', which is based on a framework created by Apple and Google and allows the app to work in a 'decentralised' manner - meaning little data is shared with the NHS about the user's movements.

Secondly, the app also features a new check-in function so that users are able to register themselves at public places like pubs, hairdressers and restaurants, so that anyone exposed to a localised outbreak can be tracked down.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

The app is free to download from the App Store or Google Play (it is available for anyone aged 16 or over, in multiple languages), and after being installed will notify you if you've been in close contact with someone who later tests positive for the virus.

It uses Bluetooth technology to keep an anonymous log of people with whom users have come into close proximity. If someone becomes ill, they're able to tell the app, which in turn will notify others by sending out an automatic notification along with further guidance.

The UK's major mobile network operators - including Vodafone, Three, EE, O2, Sky and Virgin - have confirmed that all in-app activity won't be taken out of customers' data allowance, while developers have also promised that by using low-energy Bluetooth in the background, the app shouldn't drain a device's battery.

As for privacy, which appears to be one of the biggest aspects people are concerned about, the government has confirmed that the app has been specially designed to track the virus, not people.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

It will use the latest in data security technology to protect the user's privacy, with people given a randomly-generated ID code for their device, while the app itself won't hold personal information such as your name, address or date of birth.

You'll need to provide the first half of your postcode so that the locations of outbreaks can be managed, but none of this personal data will be shared with the government or the NHS.

There's also a QR code scanning feature so that people can check in to venues they visit, with certain businesses in England now required by law to display the NHS Test and Trace QR codes so customers with the NHS Covid-19 app can use them.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has hailed the app's launch as a 'defining moment'. Credit: PA
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has hailed the app's launch as a 'defining moment'. Credit: PA

All sounds like a winner, right? Well, yes and no.

While Health Secretary Matt Hancock has hailed the app's launch as a 'defining moment', saying it will help control the virus 'at a critical time', the voluntary nature of the process means its success will likely depend on how many people choose to download it and engage in it.

We polled LADbible readers about the new app, asking on Twitter whether or not they'd be downloading and using it themselves.

A total of 63.3 percent of you said you would not be using the new app, with some citing their reasons in the comments.

One person wrote: "For yet another way for the government to track our movements. No thanks."

Someone else said: "Most of us don't even tell our parents where we're going on a Friday night you think we gone [sic] tell the government?"

A third said they felt it was an 'intrusion app', adding: "I won't be downloading but still take the precautions outlined."

Only 36.7 percent said they would be downloading the app, but those in favour appeared to make up the majority in the comments section, with one asking: "Why would you not download it?"

Another commented: "And people wonder why it's getting worse. I don't like the government as much as the next guy but they can only do so much. The rest is up to us."

One person posed the question: "Why are people not wanting to download the app that could help save your life and the people you love?"

A fourth added: "If you selected no and have literally any apps on your phone, or a phone itself, then you're a hypocrite. People know where you are."

To download the NHS Covid-19 app via Apple's App Store on iOS or Google's Play Store for Android devices, simply search 'NHS Covid-19' to download and install.

You can use it to: get advice about coronavirus; order repeat prescriptions; book appointments; check your symptoms; view your medical record; register your organ donation decision; and find out how the NHS uses your data.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: UK News, News, Coronavirus, Technology, NHS, app

Jess Hardiman
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