NHS test and trace application launches in the UK

By Kayleigh Shooter
The NHS COVID-19 contact tracing application launched today, aiming to “make the country a safer place...

 The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our day to day lives in the blink of an eye, it has had a detrimental impact on many people’s mental health, so any solution that may provide a glimmer of hope is welcome, and this is the purpose of the NHS application - to get life back to “normal”. 

The launch of the NHS Coronavirus contact tracing app was announced today, and Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for the UK Government, is urging the public to download the app and in doing so, each and every person is "making the country a safer place". He then added that "Even if only two people downloaded it and they came into close contact and one had tested positive, then it would work for the other."

Scotland and Northern Ireland have already created and launched their own individual COVID-19 contact tracing applications however the development and deployment of the UK application were halted due to a growing sense of doubt around its effectiveness and reliability.

The application is available for download on iPhone and Android and works by using an Apple and Google-developed system, incorporating Bluetooth to keep an anonymous log of people that every individual user has been close to. It does this through exchanging randomised keys and the Bluetooth signal strength is able to accurately measure proximity.

If someone falls ill, they can log their symptoms the app which then tells them the likelihood that they have COVID-19, this will then activate a response from the system which entails the server pinging their individual, specific key into a central server and this then begins a search in all app users for a match.

Should the system detect that this person has a close contact, this contact will be immediately sent a notification informing them and they will then need to stay home and self isolate for 14 days.

The app comes with a QR code scanning tool which allows for individuals to check in to venues that they visit and easily share their contact details in case they come into close contact with someone who later receives a positive test result. Nearly 160,000 businesses have already downloaded unique QR codes to use, however as the application is only voluntary it is unknown how many people will download it and make use of these QR codes. 

A TV advertising campaign is being used urging the general public to "Protect your loved ones. Get the app" but it is unsure how many people will opt to download the contact tracing application as there are doubts around its privacy and use of data. 


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