The NHS contact tracing app is available now - here’s how to download and use it

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Thursday, 24th September 2020, 8:37 am
The NHS contact tracing app is now ready to download and use (Photo: Shutterstock)
The NHS contact tracing app is now ready to download and use (Photo: Shutterstock)

The new NHS contact tracing app has now been launched across England and Wales. With coronavirus cases rising as the country approaches winter, the Bluetooth-based contact tracing app aims to alert members of the public when they have been near someone who has tested positive.

Here’s everything you need to know about the new app

When was the app made available to download?

The NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app was officially rolled out on 24 September. The app was trialled in Newham, London and the Isle of Wight

Scotland and Northern Ireland launched their own contact tracing apps earlier in the month.

How can I download the app?

You can download the app from the NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app website.

The app works on both Apple and Android phones.

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing is a virus transmission controlling method which involves a person infected by coronavirus to recount their movements and activities to build up a picture of who else might have been exposed.

Previously in England, if you tested positive for coronavirus you were contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service, via text, email or phone. You were then sent a link to the NHS Track and Trace website where you were required to fill in the details of places you have visited and people you have been around.

The contact tracing system then got in touch with people who may have been at risk of contracting the virus to tell them they were required to self-isolate for 14 days.

How will the app work?

The contact tracing app aims to automate the current human process by using Bluetooth technology in people’s phones. The app will alert people about their exposure to people with Covid-19 faster than the current human contact tracers.

Using Bluetooth between people’s devices, when someone tests positives for coronavirus the system will send out alerts to people they have had encounters with. These alerts will inform people that they should self-isolate.

Only people who have had so-called “high risk” encounters will be alerted. The system uses an algorithm to determine this, but generally someone who has been within two metres of someone who has tested positive for longer than 15 minutes is at an increased risk.

QR Codes

The NHS contact tracing app in England and Wales differs from others around the world as it features the use of QR codes.

QR Codes are scanned through an in-app camera, and will allow users to scan codes at venues and log where you have been. Pubs, restaurants, and other venues across England and Wales have been able to create their own QR codes that will work on the app.

The QR code check ins will be stored on the app for 21 days, allowing for 14 days for the virus to appear and seven days when people are most likely to be infected.