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How does the new NHS Covid-19 app work? From personal data to effectiveness explained

The new NHS Covid-19 app has launched today. The app uses Bluetooth to keep an anonymous log of everyone you come into close contact with.

When they - or indeed yourself - present symptoms of Covid-19, you inform the app and it will then alert anyone that has been in close proximity.

How does it work?

During this morning's GMB, Dr Hilary Jones explained that the app is "pretty simple to use" and that it "could make a difference in conjunction with the Test and Trace system that is done manually and the way we’ve been doing it traditionally."

Detailing how the app works, Dr Hilary said: "If you go into a bar or restaurant, you just put the QR code in. It checks your symptoms, it reminds you of what those symptoms are so I think for many people it will be quite useful."

What about personal data?

Amid concerns about how personal data is being collected, Behavioural Science expert Professor Rachel McCloy explained that the app is "a lot more anonymous than the previous app that was being trialled."

She added: "It’s not personal details about you. It is whether your phones have been in the same space and for how long they’ve been in the same space that the app is monitoring and tracking and that’s what it lets you know about. Your personal details aren’t being shared and, until such time you go and book a test, you are not giving people a lot of data about you which is one of the things that should reassure people." 

Is it effective?

Professor Rachel McCloy believes so.

"There are some nice aspects of the app in terms of showing risk in your local area which is nice and the possibility that it is connecting with other users phones to let you know if you’ve been in contact with someone. It certainly gives a much quicker way of finding out whether you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive with Covid," she said.

Meanwhile, Dr Hilary highlighted how it will help track transmission between strangers.

He said: "With this, it’s anonymised and the benefit of this is one is that if you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive subsequently and they were strangers to you, you’ll be alerted and you’re aware so you can look for symptoms, get a test or self- isolate - whatever is appropriate."

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