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Coronavirus contact-tracing app trial to begin on the Isle of Wight

Initial roll-out will see key workers utilise the app

Coronavirus

A trial of a coronavirus contact-tracing app is set to begin on the Isle of Wight on Thursday 7 May as part of the government strategy to crackdown on the virus.

The NHS COVID-19 tracing app utilises the bluetooth capabilities on mobile smartphones to record everyone an individual comes into sustained contact with. Users can then declare on the app if they have become ill with symptoms of the coronavirus, and the app in turn notifies everyone they have been in contact with to self-isolate.

The first roll-out of the app will be used by key workers, including council and healthcare workers, with the rest of the island able to download it soon afterwards. If the app proves to be successful in these initial stages, the app may be available across the rest of the UK within the next few weeks.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the launch of the trial earlier this week, and said the app will help to identify how and where the virus is spreading, and at what rate.

The Isle of Wight has been chosen for the first trial due to its low number of new coronavirus infections, and because it is covered by only one NHS trust. Travel to and from the island is also relatively restricted, so it will be easier to determine how the virus spreads via community transmission.

"By downloading the app, you are protecting your own health, you are protecting the health of your loved ones and the health of your community. Where the Isle of Wight goes, Britain follows,” said Hancock.

Critics of the app have raised privacy concerns, including the increased possibility of hacking due to the ‘centralised’ model of the app. This model means there is a central computer server which identifies which phones have matched, as opposed to a ‘decentralised’ mode where matches occur on users’ own handsets.

However, NHSX maintained the app is completely voluntary, with the only personal information stored by the app being the first part of a user’s postcode. Any further information will be recorded only if users opt-in to provide additional data.

The hope is to encourage uptake of the app among as much of the population as possible to control the virus as the UK prepares to ease its strict lockdown measures.

Oxford University’s Big Data Institute has estimated that if 60% of the population downloads the NHS app it could help to ‘substantially reduce’ the rate of new coronavirus cases, alongside other measures to control the spread of the virus.

Article by
PMGroup

6th May 2020

From: Research

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