Isle of Wight coronavirus track and trace app to be tested this week

3 May 2020, 09:06

The app is being trialled next week
The app is being trialled next week. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed the NHS coronavirus contact tracing app will "go into testing this week on the Isle of Wight".

Mr Shapps said it will then be rolled out and deployed nationwide later this month if it is successful.

It will alert people if they have been near someone who has been infected by coronavirus.

It comes as the government said millions of people in the UK are to be asked to use a phone app to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

It said it is "optimistic" people will download the app to allow better contact tracing - a key factor in beating Covid-19 and helping the country out of lockdown.

"The idea is that we will encourage as many people to take this up as possible. This is going to be a huge national effort and we need for this to work 50-60% of people to be using this app," Mr Shapps said.

"Not everybody has a smartphone, and I appreciate that for various reasons not everybody will download it but it will be the best possible way to help the NHS."

He stressed the app would be completely confidential.

The Transport Secretary said the app is a "fantastic way" to ensure the country can "keep a lid" on coronavirus and prevent a second wave.

Mr Shapps said he did not know how many of the 18,000 contact tracers the Government is seeking have been hired.

He told Sky: "It's not an issue because the app isn't going to be available for some time yet, a few weeks yet, but when it is there we will have the people in place."

Australia has launched COVIDSafe
Australia has launched COVIDSafe. Picture: PA

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he thought the "vast majority" of people would download the app and "play their part" - but insisted it was just one element of the plan to stop the spread.

The app would use Bluetooth to log each time it comes into close range of other devices also running the app.

If someone develops symptoms of Covid-19, they can use the app to inform the NHS, which will then trigger an anonymous alert to any other app users the infected person came into contact with by analysing the collected logs.

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Similar apps have already been rolled out across various countries worldwide.

Australia released COVIDSafe last Sunday evening and more than four million people have started using the app.

Use of the app is voluntary, but the government said 40% of Australians, or 10 million people, need to use it for the program to be a success.

Speaking ahead of the weekend, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said more people downloading the app would speed up the reopening of pubs, adding: "If that isn't an incentive for Australians to download COVIDSafe on a Friday, I don't know what is."

New Zealand is also planning an app to help with contact tracing, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would have to be part of a number of measures.

She told reporters: "We are working on it but I have to say our big focus has been getting our in-person contact tracing right, because we will all still be relying on that."

In Singapore, developers of the TraceTogether app estimate around one in five people in the city state have downloaded the app, the first Bluetooth contact tracing app in the world.

Half of the 1.1 million downloads of the app came in the first 24 hours.

China's app gives users a colour based on a traffic light system - green for clear, red for a coronavirus contact - and it is reportedly needed to move about as widespread restrictions are lifted.