An NHS COVID-19 contact tracking app using the Apple and Google APIs is slated for launch in England and Wales on September 24, the UK government announced today (via BBC News).
The app performs distance-based contact tracking like similar apps released in other countries. Users can also scan QR codes to register visits to restaurants and help track contacts.
UK businesses are asked to display QR code posters to promote the app. The Ministry of Health and Welfare also said that an alternative system, such as a handwritten register, must be kept for visitors without a smartphone.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the launch as “a crucial moment and will support our ability to contain the virus at a critical time”.
The first version of the NHS contact tracking app, intended for all regions of the UK, was tested on the Isle of Wight in May. The app used a centralized tracing solution instead of the Apple and Google API and was later completely retired.
The new contact tracking app for England and Wales uses the Apple and Google API to discover other smartphones that are nearby. Scotland has already launched its contract tracking app using the Apple and Google API.
The API is built into iOS 13.5 and higher and allows iPhones and Android smartphones to communicate with each other for contact tracking purposes. If you are around someone who later tests positive for COVID-19, you can receive a notification and take the appropriate steps to self-isolate and seek medical help if necessary.
Apple recently introduced a new Express Exposure Notifications system that does not require an app to be downloaded to activate the feature. After updating to iOS 13.7, a new section called “Exposure Notification” appears in the “Settings” app, in which the option “Enable exposure notifications” is activated.
By turning on exposure notifications, you can use a contact tracking app to see if the feature is available in your country, state, or region. In areas participating in the Exposure Notifications Express program, users can enable Exposure Notifications without having to download an app.
Apple and Google have emphasized the privacy of their Bluetooth-based solution, which must be activated in the Settings app under Privacy> Health> COVID-19 exposure logging in order for it to work. For more information, see our Exposure Notification Guide.
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