The NHS has finally released its troubled contact tracing app, to help track coronavirus patients in England and Wales.
The app, which is nearly four months behind schedule, uses Bluetooth to alert users if they cross paths with someone who subsequently tests positive for COVID-19.
'It is the fastest way of knowing when you're at risk from Coronavirus,' the NHS said. 'The quicker you know, the quicker you can alert your loved ones, and your community.'
Although behind schedule, the app has more features than similar ones launched in other countries, including the ability for users to scan QR codes to check in at stores and restaurants (optionally replacing the manual track and trace system). It will also inform residents if their local area is declared a hotspot due to increasing numbers of cases.
The app also lists symptoms associated with coronavirus, to help users decide if they need a test. Users can use the app to book tests and find out how long they'll need to self-isolate when they come in close contact with a virus-positive individual.
The app runs on software developed by Google and Apple and requires a device to run iOS 13.5 or Android 6.0 or later. It is available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store now.
'The app has been built in collaboration with some of the most innovative organisations in the world. We have worked with medical experts, privacy groups, at-risk communities and we've shared knowledge with the teams working on similar apps in many countries,' the NHS said.
The new #NHSCOVID19app, now available in England and Wales, is the fastest way of knowing when you're at risk from coronavirus.— NHS COVID-19 app (@NHSCOVID19app) September 23, 2020
Download now from:
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Find out more: https://t.co/rzgGGmuV13 pic.twitter.com/srtzSJOgwH
Some, however, have doubts regarding the effectiveness of the app in checking the spread of the pandemic in the country. Government officials also believe that acceptance of the app could be as low as 10 per cent in some regions.
Most contact tracking apps released worldwide in past six months have shown adoption rates between 10 per cent and 30 per cent, far lower than the NHS app target (announced in April) of 80 per cent of smartphone users.
The NHS Test and Trace programme is confident that the app can help in fighting the virus, even if few people choose to download it.
A recent study by an Oxford University team in Washington State in the USA revealed that infections fell by eight per cent and deaths by six per cent when just 15 per cent of people used an app that notified them of exposure to an infected person.
Dido Harding, controversial chairman of the NHS Test and Trace programme, said that the app would work alongside the traditional contact tracing service and will help the NHS to quickly reach more people to prevent further spread of the virus in communities.
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