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How the NHS COVID-19 app will help in the fight against coronavirus.

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First published:
24 September 2020
Last updated:

Introduction

Until we have a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, we need to stop the spread of coronavirus by testing and contact tracing.

The NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of our Test Trace Protect programme to control the spread of Covid-19. The app will be used, alongside traditional contact tracing, to notify users if they come into contact with someone who later tests positive for coronavirus.

The app allows people to report symptoms, order a coronavirus test, check in to venues by scanning a QR code and it helps the NHS trace individuals that may have coronavirus.

The app will help the NHS understand if the virus is spreading in a particular area, and so local authorities can respond quickly to stop it spreading further and save lives.

The app does this while protecting a user’s anonymity. Nobody, including the government, will know who or where a particular user is.

The app is available for download from the Apple app store or Google Play store.

By downloading and using the app, you can help keep your family and friends safe. The more people who use the app the greater our chances of reducing the spread of the virus.

How the app supports you

If you choose to download the app, six key features will help you and your community.

Trace

The app detects and logs other nearby app users using random unique IDs. If any of those users later test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), you will receive an exposure alert with advice on what to do. If you are under 18, you are advised to show this alert to a trusted adult.

Alert

When you first register for the app you will be asked for the first half of your postcode. You can check the app every day to see whether where you live has become a high risk area for coronavirus. If it is, you will also receive a notification to let you know. This will help you make daily decisions to protect yourself and those you love.

Check-in

The app allows you to record when you visit a venue by “checking-in” when you arrive, using the venue’s QR code. The app records the time you spend at the venue without recording any personal information. You will receive an alert, if you have recently visited a venue where you have come into contact with coronavirus.

Symptoms

If you feel unwell, you can use the app to check if your symptoms could be related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Test

If you have coronavirus symptoms, the app will take you to a website where you can book a test to see if you have coronavirus or not.

Isolate

If you have been advised by the app to self-isolate, the app provides a countdown timer so that you can keep track of how long you need to self-isolate. When you reach the end of your self-isolation period, the app will send you a notification reminder with a link to the latest advice for you.

How the app works

The NHS COVID-19 app uses your smartphone’s existing “Exposure Logging” feature to work out if you have spent time near other app users who have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

For this to work, your Bluetooth needs to be turned on: this will not drain your battery as the app uses “Bluetooth Low Energy”.

It will use your postcode district to tell you if your area is at risk. When you download the app you will be asked to share the first 4 letters and digits of your postcode with NHS Wales. A postcode district generally contains about 8,000 addresses. This means that your specific location cannot be identified.

Your personal privacy and data

The app will not hold any personal information about you or track your location. The app uses random unique IDs to detect other NHS COVID-19 app users so that alerts can be sent. Using these random IDs means that your interactions with other app users remain private. All records, such as date, time and how near you are to other users, are stored on your phone only. You can also delete the app and all the data it stores, whenever you choose.

The app cannot be used:

  • to identify you
  • to track you
  • to check if you are self-isolating
  • by law enforcement

Further information about the NHS COVID-19 app

Further information about the app and how to use it can be found on the NHS COVID-19 app support website.