England's NHS Test and Trace app will launch later this month - here’s how it works

Friday, 11th September 2020, 1:18 pm
Updated Friday, 11th September 2020, 1:34 pm

Pubs, restaurants and other businesses have been urged to get QR codes ready for customers to check in as the NHS Covid-19 app is set to be launched across England and Wales within two weeks.

Trials began last month, and according to the Department of Health and Social Care, it is “highly effective when used alongside traditional contact tracing” to identify the contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.

The app will be available to download in England and Wales from 24 September, the department said.

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How does the app work?

The app uses bluetooth to keep an anonymous log of those in close proximity.

Contact details of customers in pubs, restaurants and other public venues will be collected via QR codes, supporting the NHS Test and Trace system.

Hospitality businesses will be able to download posters displaying the NHS Test and Trace QR code, and have been urged to start preparing for the launch now.

The government is advising businesses who are already using their own QR system to switch to the NHS Test and Trace QR code.

It added that an alternative check-in method will be required to collect the contact details of those who do not have the app, suggesting a handwritten register.

As well as hospitality venues, universities, hospitals, leisure centres and libraries are also being urged to display the posters in communal areas, such as cafes where people are likely to congregate for more than 15 minutes and in close proximity.

Why was the app delayed?

The app has been beset by problems and delays.

In May, the first version, an NHSX app, was trialled on the Isle of Wight with the intention of being rolled out more widely across the UK.

However the government abandoned plans for its own app in June, with Google and Apple taking over the project.

Recent trials on the Isle of Wight and in the London borough of Newham and among NHS Volunteer Responders have been more successful.

When will the app be available?

The latest version of the app is due to be released on 24 September, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the launch as a “defining moment”.

He said: “We need to use every tool at our disposal to control the spread of the virus including cutting-edge technology.

“The launch of the app later this month across England and Wales is a defining moment and will aid our ability to contain the virus at a critical time.”