The NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app for smartphones will notify users if they have been in close contact with an infected person. According to NHSX (the health service’s technological arm) tests are going well, and the app could start to be rolled out in two weeks. This app is considered paramount in helping ease social distancing restrictions and getting the UK back to work. Contact tracing reduces the time taken to isolate people with COVID-19 by nearly two days, according to a Chinese study.
According to researchers, the app being developed by NHSX would work by recording every time two people are within a certain distance of each other for a prolonged period using Bluetooth technology. When one user registers themselves as being infected, or experiencing tell-tale symptoms, the app will automatically notify everyone who they could have passed it to. It might advise them to self-isolate or get tested, depending on their age and vulnerability.
NHSX says the alerts will be sent anonymously so users do not know who may have infected them. The steps taken by smartphone users are likely to resemble the following:
An Oxford University epidemiologist, Professor Christophe Fraser said the app addresses the problem that around 50 per cent of transmissions occur before a person shows symptoms. The app could prevent one infection for every one to two users who download it if they adhere to the instructions over a 3-month period. It was mentioned that 60 per cent of the UK population – or 40 million people – would need to download it for it to be effective and downloading is not mandatory.
NHSX has been working with Google and Apple to develop the app for both main smartphone operating systems – Android and IOS. The NHSX app is set to use a very different system to Apple or Google which utilises a central database server to store smartphone user’s information and send out alerts when a match is identified. Apple and Google’s system operates on a decentralised’ approach and completes matches on users’ handsets.
NHS officials hope this app will provide better insight into the spread of COVID-19 and help flatten the curve of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.