NHS COVID-19 app helps us protect our loved ones
PUBLISHED: 11:37 20 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:44 20 October 2020
2020 Getty Images
The NHS COVID-19 app can make a real difference to how we all tackle the pandemic, protecting our loved ones and those most at risk from coronavirus. Everyone aged 16 and over across England and Wales can download the app for free and play their part in combating the pandemic.
Downloading the NHS COVID-19 app is a vital way in which we can all play our part in tracking the spread of the virus while protecting those we love. Many across England and Wales have already downloaded the app, which includes a range of features, from inputting symptoms to quickly alerting you if you are at risk from coronavirus.
Everyone aged 16 and older can now download the app onto their smartphone for free. It works by logging the time and distance a user has spent near other app users, so is able to alert them if that person subsequently tests positive.
Designed to the highest standards of data privacy and data security, it tracks the virus, not people. The app doesn’t hold any personal information such as name, address or date of birth. And it only requires the first half of your postcode to ensure local outbreaks can best be managed.
For some features – such as booking a test – the app may require more information from the user, but only with their explicit consent. The app anonymously notifies anyone you have been in contact with if you enter a positive coronavirus test result.
The app can also alert you to the virus risk level in your local area, based on the first part of your postcode. On average this covers 8,000 households and, as such, does not personally identify you. It also allows you to check in at venues by scanning a QR code so you can be notified quickly and anonymously if there’s an outbreak.
The app cannot track your location. It doesn’t need to know who anyone is or where they are. As you come into contact with other app users, your phones automatically exchange random codes that alert the app if you have been near anyone for more than 15 minutes and at a distance of less than two metres.
These codes cannot be used by the NHS, government or anyone to identify who you are or who you’ve spent time with.
If someone later reports a positive test result, the app sends an anonymous alert to anyone who may be at risk. The codes are random, encrypted and deleted after 14 days. It operates using low-energy Bluetooth rather than GPS and will not drain your battery. If you have already downloaded the app, ensure you continue to use it to protect yourself and your loved ones.
To download the NHS COVID-19 app for free visit the App Store or Google Play now.
Learn more at covid19.nhs.uk
Just what the doctors ordered
MEDICAL EXPERT 1
Dr Sarah Jarvis MBE is a London GP, and an NHS Test and Trace spokesperson. “Downloading the app is definitely part of the solution. Every country that has done well with COVID-19 has got one of these apps.
“If only a small proportion of the population take this up, it is going to increase the number of people who are being alerted and who are told they could be at risk of spreading the virus. That means that we can get the R number infection rate down and hopefully prevent a general lockdown.
“By putting in only half your postcode, it will alert you to the risk of coronavirus in your area. I used this function the other day. The alert told me the risk had risen from low to medium. This is important for you to know. For instance, you might rethink what you do in terms of your visiting, socialising, going out and about.
“It is decentralised and all information is stored on your phone. You can delete the app at any time and everything disappears. It cannot enforce self-isolation. It does not know who you are or where you are.
“It is really important to stress that nothing entered on the website will be shared with the app and nothing from the app will be shared with the website. The only information that passes between the two is a completely anonymous digital token that gets the result back to the app.”
MEDICAL EXPERT 2
Prof Christophe Fraser is Professor of Pathogen Dynamics at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford.
“The more we can participate with NHS Test and Trace, stay in well ventilated areas, wear face coverings and wash hands, the less likely we are to end up in lockdown.
“So there’s a social pact there. You can just think if you, your friends and your colleagues use the app, you’ve got an early warning system that here comes the virus.
“In the UK we’re on a knife-edge and we do face a difficult situation. There are local lockdowns already. NHS Test and Trace is a system that works. The app is there to help people. The testing needs to happen quickly and we need to support people who are quarantining.
“Businesses and workplaces absolutely must regard this as an important thing that people are doing that helps us control the epidemic.
“If we do more than what we’re doing now then we can get there. So just a bit more of an effort and we can get the epidemic under control. We will make a difference.
“Our team all agree that the more people who download the app, the more we can add to the control effort. If more of us do it, the more we can turn the tide.”
MEDICAL EXPERT 3
Dr Amir Khan is a GP, TV doctor and best-selling author.
“It’s beneficial because you don’t have to ring anyone, you don’t have to go online and search for anything. Once you’ve downloaded it, it’s there on your phone.
“It’s really user friendly – honestly. I’m saying that as a complete technophobe. So, if I can use it and find it fairly easy, anyone can use it.
“If you have a smartphone, you should download this app. The reason why is that we need everyone to get on board with this idea of controlling the spread of the virus.
“The best way to do that is knowing where the outbreaks are and knowing when someone who has tested positive might have been in your vicinity.
“It works by Bluetooth technology on your phone. I was worried that it would drain my battery, because I am always on the phone talking to people, but it doesn’t. It’s really slick and really effective.
“The more people who download it, the better it will be and the more effective it will be for controlling the spread of the virus.”
MEDICAL EXPERT 4
Dr David Bonsall is a researcher at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Medicine and Clinician at John Radcliffe Hospital.
“You have two options when it comes to testing and contact tracing. You either test and contact trace people faster than the virus to stop the spread, or you test and contact trace people slower than the virus and you watch it spread.
“We knew we needed to speed the system up so we came up with a core algorithm for contact tracing using smartphones that have the ability to detect when two people have come together. It provides hope at a time when there isn’t a lot going around.
“The public understands that, if you take a process that isn’t working because it’s too slow and you add computers and smartphones into the mix, then you can make the process more efficient. By doing this, you save lives.
“For example, if you download it and I download it and we come into close contact, if you get infected and the app notifies me that I might be infected, I don’t go and visit my gran as a result. I can help protect her. That’s how this works. Gran doesn’t need the app to benefit from it. If you download the app, you’re protected and you’re more likely to be protecting the people you care about around you.”
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