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NHS app launched as infection surge continues

Thursday September 24th 2020

The long-awaited NHS contact tracing app was being launched today in a bid to revive contact tracing and help stem the surge in COVID-19 infections.

It came as the second highest number of daily infections this year was reported, outstripping all but one day during the height of the pandemic in the spring.

An advertising campaign will run throughout England and Wales, urging the public to download the app, which uses Bluetooth to identify potential contacts.

The government promised high levels of privacy and free data time on most major mobile networks. Apps are identified by randomly generated IDs.

Many businesses will have to display QR codes which app users can scan when they check in. The government claims that trials in the Isle of Wight, Newham in London and among NHS Volunteer Responders have proved successful.

The app has the backing of the Welsh government. Scotland has its own app.

The UK yesterday reported 6,178 new cases of infection and 37 deaths. On 10 April the UK 7,860 cases, the only other time then number has passed 6,000. However numbers of deaths remain at a fraction of the spring peak when the daily toll regularly passed a thousand.

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said: “In Wales, the app will complement our existing contact tracing and testing services and will further support our co-ordinated response to COVID-19 at both a local and national level.”

UK health secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are at a tipping point in our efforts to control the spread of this virus. With infection rates rising we must use every tool at our disposal to prevent transmission, including the latest technology.

“We have worked extensively with tech companies, international partners, and privacy and medical experts – and learned from the trials – to develop an app that is secure, simple to use and will help keep our country safe.

“Today’s launch marks an important step forward in our fight against this invisible killer and I urge everyone who can to download and use the app to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

The Royal College of Physicians said the app was a “step in the right direction.”

President Professor Andrew Goddard said: “Ongoing evaluation and improvement will be important to ensure it is fit for purpose and ultimately works in a clinical setting. Feedback from users must be acted on quickly.

“The government must also ensure messaging is clear and people know, for example, that their data is anonymous. As the situation evolves, policy makers are having to be responsive in the way public health guidance is developed, and we do not want people to be worried about using the app for fear of being identified and fined if they break the changing rules."

Tags: Flu & Viruses | NHS | UK News

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