Protect Scotland app: How does contact tracing app work? Will England get one?

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Launched on Thursday, the Protect Scotland app has already been downloaded 600,000 times – Scotland has a population of around 5.5 million. Nicola Sturgeon has urged residents in Scotland to download the app and stick to the coronavirus guidelines.

The app, created by using a toolkit provided by Apple and Google, uses Bluetooth technology to alert users if they have been in prolonged close contact with someone who subsequently tests positive for COVID-19.

Scotland did at first seem inclined to work with the NHS England app team, which for months pursued a centralised app collecting more data, without the co-operation of the tech giants.

It shows a further diversion as the Scottish Government’s proposals for tackling the virus veers further from that of the UK Government’s coronavirus plan.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The launch of the app is a welcome development which will offer an additional level of protection – supporting NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system as it works to drive down the spread of COVID-19 across the country.

“I would encourage everyone to download the free app if they have a compatible smartphone and help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“This will support the work of NHS Scotland and has the potential to help avoid local lockdowns.

“The more people who download and use the app, the more effective it can be in helping to make connections that may otherwise have been missed.

“This will allow people to self-isolate quickly if they are exposed to the virus, reducing the risk of them infecting others.

“We all have a part to play in suppressing the virus, and downloading the app – alongside other vital measures such as following hygiene and physical distancing guidance – will help protect you, your family and your community.

“We also know that not everyone uses a smartphone or will be able to or want to access the app, which is why this software is very much there to complement existing contact tracing methods.”

How does the app work?

The new app uses Bluetooth technology to alert users if they have been in prolonged close contact with someone who subsequently tests positive for coronavirus,

When an individual initially tests positive for the virus, they are contacted by phone call.

The contact tracer will ask them if they are an app user and if they are willing to use the app’s upload function to anonymously alert close contacts.

If they agree, they will be sent a unique code to their mobile which unlocks this function on the app.

By sharing their positive test result in this way, the information will form part of an anonymous database.

The app on other users’ phones continually checks this database automatically to see if they have been in contact with positive test case.

If this is the case, a warning is automatically issued and users are then urged to get tested or self-isolate for 14 days.

Will England get a contact tracing app?

Earlier in the pandemic Health Secretary Matt Hancock attempted to launch a contact tracing app – however it was ditched after trials.

But today, it has been revealed a new covid tracing app will be launched on September 24 for England and Wales.

The app will let people scan barcode-like QR codes to register visits to bars, restaurants and pubs.

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