UK develops COVID-19 contact-tracing app to help ease lockdown

UK develops COVID-19 tracking app to help ease lockdown

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, new applications have been developed all over the world, to help slow the course of coronavirus. The contact-tracing app is one way to achieve this goal. First trials are underway in several countries, including Britain.

Council and healthcare workers in the Isle of Wight will be the first to try the new NHS app and if it proves successful, will be made available across the country within weeks.

The app traces recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for the virus; however, concerns have been raised over privacy.

The aim of such initiatives is to ease out of lockdown as well as reducing any future outbreaks through widespread testing and contact tracing measures.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, “If the trial is successful, the app will be rolled out across the UK by mid-May.”

This approach comes as the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK reaches 28,734.

The way it works, is that the app records when two people are within a certain distance of each other for longer than a specified amount of time. If one of them later reports having symptoms, all the other app users they have come into contact with over recent days, will be alerted and told to self-isolate. The app is available on App Store and Google Play and works by Bluetooth connection.

Regarding the concerns over privacy, the app is defined as “centralized”, whereby a unified database collects information using an NHS clinical algorithm to assess the uploaded interaction data that comes through from users; the “decentralized” approach would aim to minimize the amount of personal data organizations collect. Both companies, Apple and Google, have said, “apps that adopt a decentralized model would not be allowed to gather location data.”

In addition, to ease up the frustration and debate, the NHSX – part of the health service that drives digital transformation in health, said the app will be voluntary and the only personal data stored would be the first part of the user’s postcode.