What you need to know
- The NHS has released its COVID-19 app in England and Wales.
- It uses random, anonymous identifiers to alert users if they have been exposed to COVID-19.
- It can also be used to check local risk levels and check in to venues.
The UK has finally released its NHS COVID-19 app, enabling exposure notification on devices in England and Wales, as well as risk alerts and venue check-in.
From the NHS website:
The new NHS COVID-19 app, now available to download for free in England and Wales, is the fastest way to see if you're at risk from coronavirus. The faster you know, the quicker you can alert and protect your loved ones and community.
The app has a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing, local area alerts, and venue check-in. It uses proven technology from Apple and Google, designed to protect every user's privacy.
The app is now available to download in England and Wales on both iOS and Android. On iOS, you'll need to be running iOS 13.5 or later, for Android, it's 6.0 and up. For iOS, this means iPhones as far back as the original iPhone SE or the iPhone 6s.
You can read more about the Apple/Google exposure notification framework in our FAQ. At a glance, however, the system uses Bluetooth handshakes to determine if you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. It's completely private and requires no personal data from users. The identifiers used are randomized every 15 minutes, and the system cannot be used to identify anyone you have been exposed to or anyone who has tested positive. All of this information is stored on-device, rather than on a server. It cannot be used to trace your geographic location, nor can it access any of your phone's data, such as your contacts. Random IDs are stored on your device for 14 days.
You can notify the app of COVID-19 symptoms, in which case you'll be directed to a website to book a test. If you test positive, you'll be able to get the result in the app.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you can choose to share that diagnosis with the app, alerting anonymously other app users who have spent time near you over the previous two weeks so that they can self isolate, helping to reduce the spread of the virus.
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