LONDON – The NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app will go live in England and Wales on Thursday, September 24, 2020. The UK Government announced the launch date on Friday. It will allow users to scan QR codes provided by businesses that they visit and alert them if they attend a venue where there has been an outbreak.

How the UK NHS COVID-19 Contact Tracing App Works

When the app is installed, a user can then scan a QR code provided by a venue. The device stores that information and it remains on the device for 21 days. If an outbreak at the venue is noted within that time, the venue ID in question will be sent to all devices. If the app identifies a user who has checked-in at the relevant location, they may get an alert. This will contain advice on what a user should do. Those alerts are based on the level of risk a user is perceived to be at.

Apple logo with google logo

Scaled Back Ambitions Using Apple-Google Framework

As in many other countries, the UK’s attempt at a COVID-19 contact tracing has been hit a number of issues. The government initially tried to use a model separate to that developed by Apple and Google. However, it changed its approach in July. The new app has been tested and will now be rolled out across England and Wales.

Despite the scaled-back ambitions, the government iss using “cutting edge technology,” according to UK Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock. He heralded the imminent launch “as a defining moment [that] will aid our ability to contain the virus at a critical time.”

The app is already available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. However, only users in test areas and NHS Volunteer Responders can currently use it. Managing Director of the NHS Covid-19 App, Simon Thompson said:

My team have worked tirelessly to develop the new NHS COVID-19 app and we are incredibly grateful to all residents of the Isle of Wight, London Borough of Newham, NHS Volunteer Responders and the team that went before us; the learnings and insight have made the app what it is today.

Scotland, which has a separate healthcare system, launched its own app, called Protect Scotland, on Thursday.

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cubefan

Interestingly the NHS Scotland one doesn’t require you to scan a QR code. I would argue that NHS Scotland is not a separate healthcare system, its the same system as the rest of the UK, but funded from the Scottish Governments healthcare budget as Healthcare is a devolved power. It means prescriptions in Scotland are free for all residents, whereas in England they are not. Otherwise there’s not a lot of difference right now.