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Apple iOS 13.7 adds massive breakthrough for Covid-19 contact tracing

Apple has rolled out the iOS 13.7 update, which includes an important update to the back-end framework Apple and Google designed for covid-19 contact tracing applications.

In what is likely the last major update before iOS 14 arrives this autumn, Apple is launching Exposure Notification Express, which would allow local health authorities to participate in contact tracing without having to develop a separate application.

It doesn’t completely wipe-out the workload for the health authority in question, but it does make things much easier than developing a fully functional app – which the UK in particular continues to struggle with.

Related: Best iPhone 2020

Apple’s Exposure Notifications Express now enables public health bodies to fill out a file that outlines the criteria for triggering a notification, as well as the message that is delivered to users who have been exposed.

So, end-users would receive notifications with advice to quarantine, in much the same way as they would from an app. It sees Apple and Google take a much more pro-active role in contact tracing.

Black smartphones standing on white background displaying different screens from COVID 19 Exposure app

Image credit: 9to5Mac

Three US states – Maryland, Nevada, Virginia – and the capital Washington, D.C. have already committed to using Exposure Notifications Express. Whether the UK would consider this avenue remains to be seen, but it does seem to relieve some of the pinpoints of developing an app, while giving authorities powerful tools to ensure exposure doesn’t lead to more outbreaks.

From the end user point of view, Apple will still require iPhone owners to opt-in to the system. After updating the operating system, users will be able to “Turn on Exposure Notifications” in the settings page.

Elsewhere, there’s not a lot to report with iOS 13.7. There’s some new Memoji stickers, iCloud Drive folder sharing within Fils and some bug fishes. Head to Settings > General > Software update to update your device.

This update will come to Android next month.

In a join statement, Apple and Google wrote: “As the next step in our work with public health authorities on Exposure Notifications, we are making it easier and faster for them to use the Exposure Notifications System without the need for them to build and maintain an app.

“Exposure Notifications Express provides another option for public health authorities to supplement their existing contact tracing operations with technology without compromising on the project’s core tenets of user privacy and security.”

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