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UK Covid-19 Contact-Tracing App Gets 10mn Downloads After Issues

David Paul

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Contact Tracing

The app had record uptake despite a glitch that stopped the English version of the app logging more than a third of the country’s positive tests.

The new contact tracing app rolled out in England and Wales last week has been downloaded by millions of people, despite early hiccups.

Since its Thursday launch, the app had 10 million downloads recorded on Sunday, a number Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed as an “absolutely fantastic” response.

Commenting, Hancock said: “The more of us who download it the more effective it will be.”

The download numbers milestone was mired just one day after release when a major glitch was discovered in the software that prevented more than 60,000 English users from logging positive results.

The issue affected tests carried out via an NHS or Public Health England laboratory or as part of the Office for National Statistics infection survey.

However, the UK government says the glitch has now been fixed, and in a statement, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “Everyone who receives a positive test result can log their result on the app.

“A minority of people, such as hospital patients, who were unable to log their positive result can now request a code when contacted by NHS Test and Trace to input on their app.”

The app runs on the software used by Apple and Google and uses Bluetooth to track people and send out notifications if they have come into contact with Covid carriers.

Issues surrounding privacy have been raised with contact tracing in the past, with some questioning whether collected data could be stored and used for other means.

The NHS says the new app is designed “so that nobody will know who or where you are,” and you can “delete your data, or the app, at any time”.

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Scotland has also rolled-out its own version of the track and trace app tech. ‘Protect Scotland’ was released in early September and put an emphasis on protecting user privacy.

After the recent privacy concerns, the app contains a vital feature needed to gain public trust and ensure the app is more widely used.

Much like the app in England and Wales, the ‘Protect Scotland’ app will work in tandem with existing ways of stopping the coronavirus, such as manual contact tracing, as well as current measures and advice such as physical distancing, maintaining good hygiene and wearing masks.

Commenting on the release in a Twitter post, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote: “There’s a new way to help fight COVID in Scotland. ‘Protect Scotland’ – our confidential contact tracing app – will anonymously notify app users you have been in close contact with, should you test positive. Please download, and let us all protect Scotland”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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