People in England and Wales have given an overwhelming response to calls for them to download the new NHS COVID-19 app, with over 10 million people downloading it so far, 6 million of whom did so on its first day (Thursday 24 September).
The app forms a central part of the NHS Test and Trace service in England and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme – identifying contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.
On Sunday 27 September at 12pm, there had been over 10 million downloads across compatible Google and Apple devices in England and Wales.
In addition, the app has received a warm reception from those downloading it with reviewers on the Apple app store giving it a 4.5 star review (out of 5) and the Google Play Store giving it 4.1 stars (out of 5).
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
The enthusiastic response of over 10m people downloading the app in just three days has been absolutely fantastic.
This is a strong start but we want even more people and businesses getting behind the app because the more of us who download it the more effective it will be.
If you haven’t downloaded it yet I recommend you join the growing numbers who have, to protect yourself and your loved ones
The app has already been put to use over the weekend with more than 1.5 million venue check-ins recorded on Saturday 26 September. More than 460,000 businesses have embraced the new app by downloading and printing QR code posters that can be scanned by the app to check-in to premises.
The QR codes are an important way for NHS Test and Trace in England and NHS Test, Trace, Protect in Wales to contact multiple people if coronavirus outbreaks are identified in venues.
Businesses are expected to make sure their customers are aware of the rules around QR codes by displaying posters and speaking to customers directly or record and maintain contact details logs for customers, visitors and staff.
Dido Harding, Executive Chair of England’s NHS Test and Trace Programme, said:
The level of support for the NHS COVID-19 app is yet another example of how the public and businesses across England and Wales are pulling together to tackle coronavirus.
The integration of contact tracing and venue check-in is a key feature of the NHS COVID-19 app, giving us a easy and straightforward way for us all to help protect one another. I urge any businesses yet to print and display the posts to join this effort and download them now.
A major campaign encouraging downloads of the app launched over the weekend with a new advertisements launching on primetime TV, radio, and billboards across the length and breadth of England and Wales, featuring the strapline ‘Protect your loved ones. Get the app.’
Simon Thompson, Managing Director of the NHS COVID-19 App, said:
With 1.5 million venue check-ins recorded on Saturday, the public have already put the NHS COVID-19 app to great use.
Everyone who downloads the app will be helping to protect themselves and their loved ones and I really encourage everyone who can to get it.
The more people who use it, the better it works.
The app launched on Thursday 24 September after positive trials and rigorous testing and is an important new tool to work alongside traditional contact tracing to help reduce the spread of the virus. It is available to those aged 16 and over in multiple languages.
The contact tracing element of the app works by using low-energy Bluetooth to log the amount of time you spend near other app users, and the distance between you, so it can alert you if someone you have been close to later tests positive for COVID-19 – even if you don’t know each other.
The app will advise you to self-isolate if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable you to check symptoms, book a free test if needed and get your test results.
Everyone who receives a positive test result can now log their result on the app. If you get a test in a NHS hospital, through a PHE lab – which carry out tests for NHS hospitals – or in a surveillance study, you can request a code from NHS Test and Trace to log a positive result.
The app has been designed with user privacy in mind, so it tracks the virus, not people and uses the latest in data security technology to protect privacy. The system generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth (not GPS). These unique random IDs regenerate frequently to add an extra layer of security and preserve anonymity.
The app does not hold personal information such as your name, address or date of birth, and only requires the first half of your postcode to ensure local outbreaks can be managed. No personal data is shared with the government or the NHS.
Duncan is a technology professional with over 20 years experience of working in various IT roles. He has a interest in cyber security, and has a wide range of other skills in radio, electronics and telecommunications.