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Smartphone app to trace coronavirus spread available ‘within weeks’

PUBLISHED: 16:17 03 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:17 03 May 2020

Figures have shown the number of calls made to 111 from Norfolk and Waveneye. Photo: Getty Images/ iStockPhoto

Figures have shown the number of calls made to 111 from Norfolk and Waveneye. Photo: Getty Images/ iStockPhoto

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A new government smartphone app designed to “trace” the spread of Covid-19 will be trialled on the Isle of Wight before being rolled out widely this month.

The Government has said the smartphone app will need to be used by 50-60pc of the country's population. Photo: ViewApartThe Government has said the smartphone app will need to be used by 50-60pc of the country's population. Photo: ViewApart

The app, NHSX, is part of the Government’s test, track and trace strategy and takes its impetus from the extensive contact tracing used in South Korea, Hong Kong and Germany - where the outbreak has been contained quickly.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said around 50% to 60% of people will need to use the software for it to be effective, describing it as the “best possible way to help the NHS”.

He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “The idea is that we will encourage as many people to take this up as possible.

“This is going to be a huge national effort and we need, for this to work, 50% to 60% of people to be using this app.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson claims we are Prime Minister Boris Johnson claims we are "past the peak" of coronavirus infections in the UK. Photo: Andrew Parsons

“Not everybody has a smartphone and I appreciate that for various reasons not everybody will download it but it will be the best possible way to help the NHS.”

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The Government intends to use the app and a dedicated phone team to carry out the tracing.

It will be downloaded on to smartphones and use bluetooth technology to work out when other app users are in close enough proximity to potentially spread the virus.

The data is recorded under an anonymous ID, rather than by the person’s name, with the transport secretary stressing that the information shared would be “completely confidential”.

If and when someone starts showing symptoms, or tests positive for Covid-19, they are able to share that on the app.

The app then sends a notification warning of possible infection to all those phone users to have recently come in requisite proximity.

The news comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested we are “past the peak” with regards to coronavirus infection rate and that he would be setting out a “road map” for easing measures in the near future.

But a national poll suggested more than four in five Britons are against the easing of social distancing restrictions imposed by the Government.


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