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Covid-19 tracing app to be launched in England and Wales on 24 September


Mark Say Managing Editor

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said it plans to launch the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales on 24 September.

Smartphone in hands

It has highlighted the need for hospitality and entertainment businesses – and others where people might come into significant contact with others – to ensure they have NHS QR code posters visible on entry so customers who have downloaded the app can use them to check in.

The QR codes can be generated and downloaded via a website.

The launch of the app follows the recent beginning of a trial of its second iteration on the Isle of Wight, followed up by roll out in the London Borough of Newham. The app has been designed to work alongside traditional contact tracing services and testing, to help people understand if they are at risk of infection and should self-isolate.

Development of the new version has involved a change of direction by DHSC, which abandoned the centralised approach to collecting data in the first version to the decentralised model along the lines of apps developed by Apple and Google.

DHSC said the ongoing trials have shown the app is highly effective when used alongside traditional contact tracing to identify contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19.

Business priority

It has pressed businesses to download a QR code, so that when someone enters their premises they can scan the post to log the venue information on their phone, where it will remain for 21 days. If during that time a coronavirus case is identified at a location, the venue ID will be sent to all devices, which will check if they have been at the venue and provide an alert based on the level of risk.

Businesses that are already using their own QR system are being encouraged to switch to the NHS Test and Trace QR code. An alternative check-in method must be maintained to collect the contact details of those who don’t have the app, for example a handwritten register.

Simon Thompson, managing director of the NHS Covid-19 app, said: “We are now giving businesses the time to prepare their venues ahead of the app becoming available across England and Wales. We are working closely to engage, educate and inform them about how the app works and how they can play their part.

The QR system is a free, easy and privacy preserving way to check-in customers to venues, and we encourage all businesses to get involved and download and display the official NHS QR code posters.”

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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