BRITAIN has started trials of a new smartphone app to track Covid-19 infections, with versions also available in South Asian languages such as Punjabi, Gujarati, Bangla and Urdu.
Launched on Thursday (13), the “state-of-the-art app” is part of the NHS Test and Trace service, which has covered over 250,000 people in the UK.
Trials started among residents on the Isle of Wight region and among NHS volunteers across England, and will expand to Newham.
“We’ve worked with tech companies, international partners, privacy and medical experts to develop an app that is simple to use, secure and will help keep the country safe,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“It’s essential we get the country moving again so people can get back to doing what they love. Our statistics show more people with symptoms are getting tested and NHS Test and Trace reaches the vast majority of people testing positive, and their contacts.”
The app was designed to work alongside traditional contact tracing services and testing, to help people understand if they are at risk of infection so they can take appropriate action.
It uses the latest in security technology and is designed with user privacy in mind, so it “tracks the virus and not people”.
“It’s really important that we make it as easy as possible for everyone to engage with NHS Test and Trace,” said Dido Harding, executive chair of the NHS Test and Trace programme.
“By launching an app that supports our integrated, localised approach to NHS Test and Trace, anyone with a smartphone will be able to find out if they are at risk of having caught the virus, quickly and easily order a test, and access the right guidance and advice.
“The app is a great step forward and will complement all of the work we are doing with local areas across the country to reach more people in their communities and work towards our vision of helping more people get back to the most normal life possible at the lowest risk.”
Simon Thompson, managing director of the NHS Test and Trace App, the Test and Trace programme was was vital to control the spread of coronavirus, and that the new app was designed to “give people maximum freedom at minimum risk”.
The app, which is being overseen by head of product Randeep Sidhu, will be like having “NHS Test and Trace in your pocket”, he added.
“We have worked with some of the most innovative organisations in the world, such as Apple, Google, scientists from the Alan Turing Institute and Oxford University and governments across the world to come up with a state-of-the-art product which works to protect people everyday,” Thompson said.
The app comes with a range of enhanced features, including an alert system letting users know the level of coronavirus risk in their postcode district, a QR code check-in option to warn users if they have recently visited any place where they may have come into contact with a Covid-19 carrier, and a symptoms tracker.
Designers of the app stressed that it will offer the “highest standards of data privacy and data security”, and not track individuals or hold personal information such as name, address or date of birth.
Rokhsana Fiaz, the mayor of Newham, where the app will be trialled, said the east London borough had “seen some of the most significant impacts of Covid-19 due to the health inequalities and vulnerabilities in our communities”.
“With its easy to use features, the app will be available in different languages and comes with the assurance that personal data stays with the user so that people’s privacy is protected,” she added.