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(Pocket-lint) - The second version of the NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app has official entered trials again, once again returning to the Isle of Wight to test the efficiency of the new app. This time, trials will also be extended to the London Borough of Newham. 

The app is designed to act as a contact tracing system, allowing those in the UK to go about their business, but get alerted if they have been in close proximity of someone who later tests positive to COVID-19.

The app forms part of the NHS Test and Trace programme in the UK, but importantly it will fill in the gaps that manual contact tracing can't - i.e., it will be able to log contacts with people you don't know. That, for example, would mean that if you were on a crowded bus and later fell ill and tested positive, there's a higher chance of reaching those other people on that bus to alert them to the risk.

The NHS app will use the framework setup by Apple and Google which allows iPhone and Android devices to log contact with each other using Bluetooth. It's a very low energy system that works in the background once you have installed the app, but means that an anonymised contact map can be built as you go about your day.

All the data stays on your phone until you have something to report - and the privacy is backed up by Apple and Google. 

But the app that's been developed for the UK does a little more than just contact tracing. It will also allow you to check-in at venues. By scanning a code, you'll be able to register yourself at a location - like a restaurant or bar - meaning that if there's an outbreak from that location you can be contacted in the future. 

You'll also be asked to input the start of your postcode, so you can get information via the app about the current situation in your local area. This will be a method for communicating about local lockdowns or restrictions. 

Additionally the app will let you check your symptoms and provide a route to booking a test, with the app directing you to the NHS website. 

If through any of the measures above, you're alerted that you've been in close contact with someone who tests positive for coronavirus - or test positive yourself - there will be advice on how long to isolate for, as well as a countdown timer so you can check when you're free to get back to normal life again.

The normal running of the app will be anonymous, so there's no danger of you being identified through the app or through reported contacts. The Department for Health and Social Care has said all along that it will be voluntary to use - and that you're free to delete the app and all the data at any time. 

However, it's thought that the UK will need close to 60 per cent adoption to make the app truly effective in fighting the disease and making sure that too many contacts don't go unnoticed.

Currently there's no word on how long the trials will run for.

Dido Harding, executive chair of the NHS Test and Trace programme, said: "It's really important that we make it as easy as possible for everyone to engage with NHS Test and Trace. By launching an app that supports our integrated, localised approach to NHS Test and Trace, anyone with a smartphone will be able to find out if they are at risk of having caught the virus, quickly and easily order a test, and access the right guidance and advice."

Writing by Chris Hall.
  • Source: Test and Trace service reaches more than 250,000 people since launch - gov.uk
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