Local people across Southend-on-Sea are being urged to download the NHS COVID-19 app to help control the spread of coronavirus and protect themselves and their loved ones as case numbers rise.
The app launched nationally yesterday, and is available to those aged 16 and over in multiple languages. It forms a central part of the NHS Test and Trace service in England - identifying contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.
The contact tracing element of the app works by using low-energy Bluetooth to log the amount of time you spend near other app users, and the distance between you, so it can alert you if someone you have been close to later tests positive for COVID-19 – even if you don’t know each other.
The app will advise you to self-isolate if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable you to check symptoms, book a free test if needed and get your test results.
Local businesses are also being reminded to check if they are required by law to display NHS Test and Trace QR codes so customers with the NHS COVID-19 app can use them to check-in. Those that are legally required to do this include pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes, tourism and leisure services like hotels and museums, close contact services like hairdressers and facilities such as libraries, community centres and council buildings.
QR codes will help businesses meet their legal requirement to log contact details and allow public health leads to send alerts based on whether people have checked in at venues.
Krishna Ramkhelawon, the council’s director of public health, says: “We are asking local people to download and use the free NHS COVID-19 app, which is another tool in the fight against Coronavirus.
“It enables the vast majority of people with a smartphone to find out if they are at risk of having caught the virus and if they subsequently need to self-isolate. You can also order a test if you have symptoms, and access the latest guidance and advice. The more people that use this, the better it will work, so please help protect your loved ones and the local community by downloading the app.”
Cllr Trevor Harp, cabinet member for adult social care and health, says: “Each and every person who downloads the app will be helping to protect themselves and their loved ones.
“We are also reminding relevant local businesses to download and display NHS Test and Trace QR code posters so their customers can log their visit. We have a large hospitality and leisure sector in Southend-on-Sea, so this is particularly important and relevant locally.”
Read more on the NHS website about what to do if you are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
The UK’s major mobile network operators, including Vodafone, Three, EE and O2, Sky and Virgin, have confirmed that all in-app activity will not come out of customers’ data allowance.
The app has been designed with user privacy in mind, so it tracks the virus not people, and uses the latest in data security technology to protect privacy. The system generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth (not GPS). These unique random IDs regenerate frequently to add an extra layer of security and preserve anonymity.
The app does not hold personal information such as your name, address or date of birth, and only requires the first half of your postcode to ensure local outbreaks can be managed. No personal data is shared with the government or the NHS.
The NHS Test and Trace team behind the app has worked closely with major tech companies, including Google and Apple, scientists within the Alan Turing Institute and Oxford University, Zuhlke Engineering, medical experts, privacy groups, at-risk communities and teams in countries across the world using similar apps – such as Germany, to develop an app that is safe, simple and secure.
Those who may not have access to the app, or the ability to use a smartphone should continue to use traditional contact tracing services provided by NHS Test and Trace.