UK to go ahead with COVID-19 contact-tracing app

pharmafile | April 14, 2020 | News story | Manufacturing and Production  

The British government has confirmed it will go ahead in utilizing an app that will warn people if they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

An app for this purpose is being tested in a pilot study by NHSX, the health services digital unit, and using families at a secure location in the North of England.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the NHS was developing this app in collaboration with the world’s leading tech companies. Explaining how it works, he said: “If you become unwell with the symptoms of coronavirus, you can securely tell this new NHS app, and the app will send an alert – anonymously – to other app users that you have been in significant contact with over the past few days.”

Hancock also added that there will be two levels of alert, with a high alert sent to associates of those confirmed to have COVID-19.

Apple and Google announced after that they were collaborating on application programming interfaces (APIs) and systems available to developers of contact-tracing apps. The NHSX told the BBC they plan to integrate this third party API into its own app.

Similar apps have been used in China and South Korea but have caused controversy over the potential abuse of people’s privacy and data. Hancock has insisted that the data would be kept securely for use by the NHS only and will not be collected for longer than necessary. There are also plans to publish the source code for the app so experts can scrutinise it.

Conor Kavanagh

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