LONDON – The UK on Thursday began testing a new COVID-19 app, based on the API developed by Apple and Google. It will initially be available to those in the Isle of Wight, where the original app was tested, as well as to NHS volunteers. Residents of the London Borough of Newham are also expected to test the app in the near future.
UK COVID-19 Tracing App 2.0
The new UK COVID-19 tracing app in the UK works on the principle of Bluetooth handshakes – alerting people if they’ve been near someone who has subsequently tested positive and if they need help ‘self-isolate. (Only those who subsequently have symptoms of COVID-19 will be asked to take a test, also possible through the app.) Each device is assigned a random identifier. This can be swapped between devices but is also rotated frequently to prevent tracking.
The app also includes features like a countdown timer to tell people how many more days they need to self-isolate, and tells people if they are in a “ high risk ” area based on ‘a zip code they enter.
Work with technology companies
“We have worked with technology companies, international partners, privacy and medical experts to develop an application that is easy to use, secure and will help keep the country safe,” commented the UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Affairs, Matt Hancock. Simon Thompson, chief executive of the NHS Test and Trace app, said:
NHS Test and Trace is essential for controlling the spread of the coronavirus and this app is designed to give people maximum freedom with minimum risk. We have worked with some of the most innovative organizations in the world such as Apple, Google, scientists from the Alan Turing Institute and the University of Oxford and governments around the world to develop a cutting edge product that works to protect people every day.
The UK first attempted to create a COVID-19 contact tracing app without using the Apple-Google API. However, she ran into a number of issues, resulting in a change of approach.