A new NHS app designed to track the spread of coronavirus has been launched for some workers today as part of a trial on the Isle of Wight.
Healthcare and council staff will be the first to test the contact-tracing app, with the rest of the island’s population able to join the trial from Thursday.
The smartphone app is expected to be rolled out across the country in the next few weeks.
The app, which has been launched on Apple and Google stores, will use Bluetooth to track when two people are close to each other for a certain amount of time.
If one of these people later experiences symptoms of coronavirus, the app will inform the other and advise them on what action to take, including self-isolation.
Health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday said the technology would supplement existing social distancing measures.
“It’s primarily the social distancing measures we’ve taken so far that will flatten the curve [of infections] and now we can see the curve is going down,” he said.
“The goal is to keep the number of new infections coming down and bring in the test, track and trace app at a point, which we will do from tomorrow on the Isle of Wight and then by rolling out to the rest of the country we will get those numbers down.”
The government has said the app will play a key role in lifting the lockdown, alongside other measures such as testing and manual contact tracing.
The app has raised some concerns about privacy, but ministers have insisted it has been developed with the highest standards of security.
“As part of our commitment to transparency, we will be publishing the key security and privacy designs alongside the source code so privacy experts can ‘look under the bonnet’ and help us ensure the security is absolutely world class,” said Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, the NHS division that developed the app.
In order for the system to be effective, the government will need to persuade a large proportion of the population to download the app.
In addition, Hancock has pledged to hire an army of 18,000 contact tracers by mid-May to help ramp up the “test, track and trace” approach.