The official NHS contact tracing app has been launched in England and Wales, with everyone over the age of 16 urged to download it.
More than six months after Britain was isolated, the coronavirus pandemic is showing no signs of abating.
Testing aside, the main method of slowing the spread of the virus is contact tracing. This is where people will be notified if they may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, and then self-isolate.
Now, the government has launched its official testing and tracking app in England and Wales, with a number of features designed to keep people safe in these uncertain times.
What is the NHS Covid-19 application?
“NHS COVID-19” is a smartphone app designed to help people stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic. It is only available in England and Wales, with Scotland and Northern Ireland having launched their own similar apps.
Its main purpose is for contact tracing, where people will be notified if they may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Designed by Apple and Google, it uses the Bluetooth connection on your phone to “collect and securely share random IDs with other phones nearby.”
If the app suspects you have been in contact with an infected person, it will recommend you self-isolate for 14 days. However, unlike positive self-testing or returns from countries not on the travel corridor list, this is not mandatory.
However, there are many additional functions. When you enter the first part of your zip code during setup, the app will provide you with a “Risk level” indicator where you live. You can also check-in to places by scanning a QR code when you arrive, checking for any symptoms you have, or entering test results to further improve service accuracy.
How to download the NHS Covid-19 application
To download the app, you first need to have a compatible smartphone. It is not available on tablets, laptops or PCs.
This app is compatible with all phones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow (2015) or later that have access to the Google Play Store. That last point is very important, because it means the latest Huawei phones are not supported.
Download it from Google Play Store now.
All iPhones since iPhone 6S (2015) are app compatible. Even if you use the same App Store, it needs to be reiterated that the app won’t work on the iPad.
Download it from the App Store now.
From there, the setup process is the same on both platforms:
- After you open the application, you will see a summary of the application’s features. Tap Continue to start
- On the next screen, confirm that you are over 16 years of age (provided you are of course)
- Next, enter the first part of your zip code (eg NW1)
- On the next screen, tap on ‘Turn on’ to allow exposure notification. As part of this step, Bluetooth on your device will be turned on
- There he is! You should now be on the app’s home screen
The contact tracing feature is estimated to use very little battery, even when running in the background. However, you can turn it off using the switch at the bottom of the screen.
How to order a test on the NHS Covid-19 application
While contact tracing comes first, it’s not the only feature in the app. Another big problem is ordering the test, which you will be advised to do if you have any of the 3 main symptoms: a high temperature, a new persistent cough or a loss / change in your sense of smell or taste:
- From the main application screen, tap “Check for symptoms”
- Add a check mark next to one of the main symptoms you’re experiencing and tap “Continue”. If you do not have one, it is recommended that you do not order a test
- On the next screen, review your answer and choose the date you think this symptom begins
- Hit submit to order your test on the website
How to scan a QR code on the NHS Covid-19 application
Another major function of the app is scanning the QR code when you visit places like pubs, restaurants and bars. This aims to replace the existing format, where you have to provide your name and contact information to the owner of the place:
- On the main screen of the app, tap “Where to check in”
- Press “Allow” if this is your first time using the feature
- Now, hold your phone to the official NHS QR code (this must be clearly shown)
- Once recognized, the app will say that you have successfully checked in
It is estimated that this application requires about 60% of the population to download it to be effective, so we highly recommend setting it up on your smartphone.