Senior officials from National Health Service's (NHS) technology group NHSX on Tuesday said that a contact-tracing app to allow people to know if they were in close proximity to a Covid-19 positive patient could be rolled out in two to three weeks. The news comes after UK decides not to adopt Google and Apple's joint model of contact-tracing app.
The UK clashed with Google and Apple over privacy standards for the contact-tracing app, as it required data processing to be de-centralized. However, the new app, which is likely to be ready in the coming weeks, is being seen as a key in helping ease social distancing restrictions.
Contact-tracing app to be built by NHS
The NHS, which is spearheading a contact tracing app that will help people to know if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, on Tuesday said that the app could be rolled out in just two to three week's time. Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHS's technology wing NHSX, told a parliamentary committee that the contact-tracing app will initially be tested locally.
"We hope in the next couple of weeks we'll be in a position to roll it out in a small area," Gould said. The UK is yet to lift its lockdown. Gould said that a wider use of the app will depend on the app's performance in the "trials" and the overall program to ease the lockdown. The app is being touted as a key element in helping easing social distancing restrictions in the UK, which has been under lockdown with people locked inside their homes.
UK doesn't trust Google, Apple
The UK decision to develop an app comes after it rejected Google and Apple's joint model for contact tracing apps on Monday, as it requires data processing to be de-centralized. NHS said that it wants an alternate model instead of rather than integrating the system devised by Apple and Google.
Much like other contact-tracing apps developed around the world, the NHS app will also used Bluetooth signals to allow people's phones to identify who else they have been in contact with. If any of the users of that app develops Covod-19 positive symptoms, they will be able to mark themselves as potential coronavirus positive suspects in the app. This will raise an alarm on other phones which have been in that phone's proximity in the past two weeks.
Bluetooth proximity tracking is now being baked into national contacts tracing apps across Europe and elsewhere, although app architectures can vary considerably. Gould also said that the future versions of the app could ask users to share location data to help authorities learn more how the deadly coronavirus spreads.