Second attempt for coronavirus contact tracing app underway on the Isle of Wight and in Newham

Credit: PA

A second attempt to launch a coronavirus test and trace app is underway on the Isle of Wight and in the London borough of Newham.

The first effort to develop "world-beating" technology to tackle the spread of Covid-19 was abandoned on the Isle of Wight because of Bluetooth settings.

The previous app, based on an alternative system spearheaded by NHSX - the health service's digital innovation unit - had to deal with restrictions Apple imposes on how Bluetooth is used by third-party apps.

Now the government has teamed up with Google and Apple to have another go.

But what is different about the government’s second attempt at a contact tracing app for coronavirus - and will it be any better?

The NHS Test and Trace app keeps an anonymous log of people we come into contact with in public places, particularly those we do not know, such as someone on a bus, as it is too difficult to track down strangers.

It uses Bluetooth technology to note down an anonymous ID of those within two metres of you for 15 minutes who are also using the app, which will send an alert to you if they later test positive for Covid-19 – or vice versa.

How does the new app work?

Any information is stored on your phone and not a central database. The NHS will only become aware of you if you tell the app of symptoms and decide to order a test.

On setup, the app will ask for permission to use Bluetooth in the background – which the app relies on to work – and the ability to send and receive notifications, needed to let you and others know of any positive contacts.

You need to enter the first part of your postcode so that localised flares can be reported, and displayed at the top of the app with a risk level grading.

Widespread testing is key to the track and trace strategy. Credit: PA

The government says the app does not take any personal data from the user and does not use GPS to track your location, with the app only able to store data for 14 days after it has been recorded, or it can be deleted by the user at any time.

Those who think they have a coronavirus symptom can tell the app, along with a date for when the symptom first started.

If at least one of the three key symptoms is selected, you will be told to self-isolate by the app and a timer will appear based on when you said they started.

You will also be advised to have a Covid-19 test, which will redirect to the government website.

The test and trace programme has been introduced by the government. Credit: Press Association

Results will be sent back in the usual way – email and text – as well as through the app, and if you do test positive, those who have been in close proximity will be sent an alert with advice on also self-isolating.

The process will not be able to name you.

A check-in feature has also been added, allowing people to scan QR codes using their smartphone’s camera in the app, whenever they go to a public venue.

What happens when you get an alert?

If you receive an alert from the app, you will be expected to self-isolate, but given the anonymous nature of the app there will not be any way to identify you and ensure you follow the advice.

Will it launch properly across England?

Officials have not revealed a timetable for when they hope to make the app available across England.