An NHS COVID-19 contact-tracing app using the Apple and Google API is finally set to launch in England and Wales on September 24, the UK government has announced today (via BBC News).
The app performs distance-based contact-tracing like similar apps released in other countries. It will also allow users to scan QR codes to register visits to hospitality venues to aid contact-tracing.
UK businesses are being asked to display QR code posters to advertise the app. The Department of Health and Social Care also said that an alternate system, such as a handwritten register, must also be maintained for visitors who do not have smartphones.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the launch as “a defining moment and will aid our ability to contain the virus at a critical time.”
The first version of the NHS contact-tracing app, intended for all regions of the UK, was trialed on the Isle of Wight in May. The app used a centralized tracing solution rather than the Apple and Google API, and was later scrapped entirely.
The new contact-tracing app for England and Wales will use the Apple and Google API for detecting other nearby smartphones. Scotland has already launched its contract-tracing app using the Apple and Google API.
The API is built into iOS 13.5 and later, and allows iPhones and Android smartphones to interface with one another for contact-tracing purposes. If and when you happen to be nearby 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 rolled out a new Express Exposure Notifications System that does not require an app to be downloaded for the feature to be turned on. After updating to iOS 13.7, a new Exposure Notification section appears in the Settings app where there’s a toggle to “Turn on Exposure Notifications.”
Activating Exposure Notifications lets you know if the feature is available in your country, state, or region through a contact tracing app. In areas that are participating in the Exposure Notifications Express program, users can turn on Exposure Notifications without the need to download an app.
Apple and Google have stressed the privacy of their Bluetooth-based solution, which must be enabled in the Settings app under Privacy > Health > COVID-19 Exposure Logging to function. Read our Exposure Notification guide for more details.
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