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NHS contact tracing app with Apple/Google tech to begin testing in England

The new Apple and Google-aided coronavirus contact tracing app is finally ready for testing in England after months of delays.

The NHS app will once again be trialled in the Isle of Wight from Thursday onwards, with hopes of a national roll out sometime this year beginning to fade. A BBC report says the government will not be making a song and dance about the trials because it does not want to raise hopes of an imminent launch.

Today’s report also says engineers are working on some issues with the Bluetooth tech incorrectly reporting people are within 2 metres of each other. Should the app launch with this flaw still in place, it could mean more people are advised to quarantine than is necessary.

The app is slightly different to the original version, which was ditched over battery life concerns and general ineffectiveness. This was largely down to the limitations of building the app without the Apple/Google Exposure Notification API, a mistake that has now been rectified months later.

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Now users will be warned when they’ve spent enough time in close proximity to a person in order to be at risk of catching the disease. The app will still warn users to when people they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive and told to quarantine for 14 days.

As previously rumoured, the app will have a QR feature that will encourage users to scan codes when they enter businesses. This may help with notifying people who are potentially affected by outbreaks at pubs or small businesses, for example.

“We need the app to help stop transmission by tracing close-proximity contacts as quickly and as comprehensively as possible, capturing those contacts we don’t know or don’t remember meeting,” Oxford University Professor Christophe Fraser, a scientific advisor to the Department of Health told the BBC.

“The app should enable us to return to more normal daily activities with the reassurance that our contacts can be rapidly and anonymously notified if we get infected.”

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