NHS COVID-19 app

Introducing the NHS COVID-19 app (available from 24 September 2020)

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NHS COVID-19 app TV advert 

How the app will help in the fight against the pandemic

The NHS COVID-19 app is part of the large-scale coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and contact tracing programme called the NHS Test and Trace service.

The app:

  • will be used, alongside traditional contact tracing, to notify users if they come into contact with someone who later tests positive for coronavirus.
  • allows people to report symptoms, order a coronavirus test, check in to venues by scanning a QR code, and it helps the NHS trace individuals that may have coronavirus.
  • will help the NHS understand if the virus is spreading in a particular area, and so local authorities can respond quickly to stop it spreading further and save lives.
  • protects user's anonymity. Nobody, including the government, will know who or where a particular user is.
  • is free to download and users must be aged 16+

The importance of the app

Every person who downloads the app will be helping in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19).

The app will help the NHS understand where and how quickly the virus is spreading, so it can respond quickly and effectively. The app helps the NHS track the virus, not individuals.

The app will not track you or your location. Instead your postcode district helps the app work out where the virus is spreading. Your postcode district is the first part of your postcode, which is common to about 8,000 other households. When you first download the app, you will be asked for your postcode district.

Benefits of app contact tracing

The app helps trace app users who have spent time near other app users, who they may not personally know, and who later test positive for coronavirus.

The "Check-in" feature supports this functionality by anonymously alerting users who have been at the same venue at the same time. App contact tracing reduces the time it takes to alert those who you have been in close contact with.

How the app supports you

The app has key features that will provide you maximum freedom and minimum risk. They will help to reduce your personal risk and the public's risk too.

  • Trace - For contact tracing, the app detects and logs other nearby app users using random unique IDs. If any of those users later test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), you will receive an exposure alert with advice on what to do. If you are under 18, you are advised to show this alert to a trusted adult.
  • Alert - When you first register for the app you will be asked for the first half of your postcode. You can check the app every day to see whether where you live has become a high risk area for coronavirus. If it is, you will also receive a notification to let you know. This will help you make daily decisions to protect yourself and those you love.
  • Check in - The app allows you to record when you visit a venue by "checking-in" when you arrive, using the venue's QR code. The app records the time you spend at the venue without recording any personal information. You will receive an alert, if you have recently visited a venue where you have come into contact with coronavirus.
  • Symptoms - If you feel unwell, you can use the app to check if your symptoms could be related to coronavirus (COVID-19). The app will give you a list of potential symptoms and you can then choose the ones that apply to you. It will then tell you if your symptoms suggest you have coronavirus.
  • Test - If you have coronavirus symptoms, the app will take you to a website where you can book a test to see if you have coronavirus or not.
  • Isolate - If you have been advised by the app to self-isolate, the app provides a countdown timer so that you can keep track of how long you need to self-isolate. When you reach the end of your self-isolation period, the app will send you a notification reminder with a link to the latest advice for you. If you are under 18, you are advised to show this message to a trusted adult.

How the app works

Partnering with Google and Apple to create an app that helps in the fight against coronavirus.

The NHS COVID-19 app uses your smartphone's existing "Exposure Logging" feature to work out if you have spent time near other app users who have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). For this to work, your Bluetooth needs to be turned on: this will not drain your battery as the app uses "Bluetooth Low Energy".

You must be ages 16+ to use the app.

Alerting others

An app user who tests positive for coronavirus can choose if they want other app users to be alerted. A random unique ID will then be used to alert other app users who were in close contact with that person. This ensures that the positive user's privacy and identity is protected.

What to do if I have symptoms

You can use the app to check if your symptoms mean that you should be tested.

If you feel unwell, you should use the app to check if your symptoms could be related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

You can enter your symptoms into the app by tapping the "Report Symptoms" button. The app will give you a list of potential symptoms and you can then choose the ones that apply to you.

When you have answered the questions, you can check them before you submit this information to the app. The app will then tell you if your symptoms could be caused by coronavirus and will provide a link to the website where you can book a free test. If you are under 18, you are advised to show this message to a trusted adult.

What happens if I have a positive test result?

If you test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), the app will tell you to self-isolate. If you are under 18, you are advised to show the alert to a trusted adult. It is really important that you stay at home during this time. The app will help you keep track of your isolation period with a countdown timer showing you how much longer you need to keep self-isolating. The app will also provide links to advice from the NHS on coronavirus and on what to do if you feel unwell.

What does my positive test result mean for other members of the public?

If you test positive for coronavirus, then you can choose if you want other app users to be alerted. If you decide to send alerts, NHS doctors and scientists use an algorithm to work out how close you need to be to someone with the virus, to be at risk. A random unique ID will then be used to anonymously alert other app users who you were in close contact with on the days before you developed symptoms. No personal details about you are revealed with this alert and your privacy and identity are always protected. App users receiving this alert will be given official NHS advice on what to do next. You may also be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service in England and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service in Wales and asked to complete a form about who you know you've been in contact with recently.

How privacy and data are protected

The NHS will securely send data to your phone. For example, this data might be information about a change in risk level for your postcode district. This data is used to alert you if you are at risk of getting coronavirus (COVID-19) from other app users who have been near you. The app uses random unique IDs to detect other NHS COVID-19 app users so that alerts can be sent. Using these random IDs means that your interactions with other app users remain private. All records, such as date, time and how near you are to other users, are stored on your phone only. You can also delete the app and all the data it stores, whenever you choose.

Your data is safe and secure.

The app will not hold any personal information about you or track your location.

The app cannot be used:

  • to identify you,
  • to track you,
  • to check if you are self-isolating,
  • by law enforcement.

Experts from the Government, Apple, Google and industry have helped to design, test and improve the app. The National Cyber Security Centre also checks that the app is safe and secure to use.

The app does not have access to your phone contacts or any other personal information held on your phone. This includes your name, contacts, email addresses or phone numbers, or the specific details of your phone.

Your privacy and identity are secure. More information about data and privacy can be found on the NHS Covid 19 website.

What data is logged with "Check-in" feature?

When you check into a venue, data will be held on your phone. This includes the time and date of your check-in and an identifier for the venue. The app will automatically delete your list of check-ins every 21 days, but you can also choose to delete this list whenever you want.

If other people were at the same venue at the same time as you, and later test positive for coronavirus, you may receive an alert to let you know

Risk levels

When you first register for the app, you'll be asked for the first half of your postcode, so we can notify you when your area's risk level changes. In England, risk level is based on the Local Authority watch list. This is determined each week by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. It draws on advice from the Chief Medical Officer for England, NHS Test and Trace, the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England.

High: High risk level means your local authority, or a neighbouring local authority is using additional measures, such as lockdown, to reduce transmission because of high levels of infection in the local area. A detailed action plan is in place with both local resources and national support.

Medium: Your local authority, or a neighbouring local authority, has high or rising levels of infection. Please follow national guidance.

Other information

If you don't have a smartphone or one that has the necessary operating system: The NHS COVID-19 app is just one way the government are tackling the pandemic.  For places that require you to check in there will be a paper log to do that.  To check symptoms and get up to date advice see https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

The random unique IDs used for contact tracing are codes made up of letters and numbers. These are shared between phones and they change every 15 to 20 minutes. They cannot be used to identify users or their phones.

You will always be able to delete the app whenever you want. Some data remains, as determined by your phone's operating system, but the app and the data it contains is deleted.Once you have deleted the app you will no longer receive notifications or alerts.

The app does not allow you to identify any app users that test positive for coronavirus. Random unique IDs are used to make sure that the identity and privacy of anyone using the app is protected. However, users are advised to keep their phone secure as alerts on the app will be visible to those who can access your phone

The app uses "Bluetooth Low Energy" and will have minimal impact on your mobile phone battery, especially if you normally have Bluetooth enabled

When you download the app you will be asked to submit a postcode district. This means that the first part of your postcode is shared with the NHS. A postcode district generally contains about 8,000 addresses, which means that your specific location cannot be identified. The app will use your postcode district to tell you if the area is at risk. The NHS will use the postcode district to: predict and manage local hospital services, improve the app and make sure it is working

The app will work while your phone is locked, as long as the phone is switched on and Bluetooth is enabled. An exception to this is if you have just restarted your phone, you must first unlock the phone to trigger the app to start working. This is only required on restart and you don't need to open the app

Why do I need to turn on notifications? Notifications are used for certain features of the app to work, such as contact tracing. If you have spent time near another app user who later tests positive for coronavirus, your phone will use notifications to send you an alert Please turn on notifications if you are are asked to do so.

If you enter a venue (for example, a shop, a restaurant or a salon) that has an official QR poster at the entrance, you should scan the QR code using the camera through your app. You will be prompted with a message to give your permission before it is used. You will then receive an alert, if you have recently visited a venue where you have come into contact with coronavirus (COVID-19).

In order for the NHS COVID-19 app to work, you will need the latest version of your phone's operating system installed. For Apple phones, you will need versions 13.5 or higher. Android phones will need Marshmallow or version 6.0 or higher. For guidance on other phones and instructions on how to upgrade your operating system, go to "Common Questions" on the NHS Covid 19 website.

Please contact communications@nfdc.gov.uk if you would like information about the app in a different language.

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