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The long awaited NHS contact tracking app launches in two WEEKS in England and Wales


England's beleaguered Covid-19 contact tracking app will finally be released on September 24, the Ministry of Health confirmed today after Nicola Sturgeon hit Boris Johnson again by going live with Scotland's app yesterday.

Westminster officials originally promised that the app, dubbed the "Game Changer" by ministers, would be ready by May, but its rollout has been repeatedly delayed because the software struggled to pass tests on the Isle of Wight.

The app will extend the NHS Test & Trace service, which aims to track down people who were close to those infected with the coronavirus. It will use bluetooth to keep an anonymous log of all the people each user was close to and to notify them if any of them test positive for Covid-19.

However, the software cannot be downloaded for two weeks. This means that England and Wales will be the last places in the UK to have a contact tracking app after Northern Ireland started using its own version in early August and Scotland went online yesterday.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today: "We must use every tool available to us to control the spread of the virus, including cutting-edge technology. The app launch later this month in England and Wales is a pivotal moment and will help us contain the virus at a critical time. & # 39;

The English app launched suspiciously shortly after Ms. Sturgeon released her Protect Scotland software yesterday, another sign of Whitehall trying to catch up with officers north of the border. It's the latest on a series of issues that Scottish First Minister Boris Johnson has improved on, either by announcing action first or by taking more sensible action.

Ms. Sturgeon yesterday announced the same "six-point rule" for social distancing that Mr. Johnson revealed yesterday, but has decided to keep children out. Mr Johnson is now facing a Tory Civil War over his decision not to exclude youth from politics. A number of senior ministers opposed the measure at a crunch meeting earlier this week when it was passed. Chancellor Rishi Sunak was among those who spoke up.

Officials abandoned the NHS attempt to create their own app in June when they discovered it wouldn't work on iPhones (Image: the app is in development).

Nicola Sturgeon's government yesterday launched the Protect Scotland contact tracing app and hit Westminster again

Nicola Sturgeon's government yesterday launched the Protect Scotland contact tracing app and hit Westminster again

Ms. Sturgeon yesterday announced the same "rule of six" social distancing that Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock revealed yesterday, but has decided to keep children out

Matt Hancock this morning

Ms. Sturgeon yesterday announced the same "rule of six" social distancing that Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock revealed yesterday, but has decided to keep children out. Mr Johnson is now facing a Tory Civil War over his decision not to exclude youth from politics

The English app, the first version of which had to be scrapped in June after a series of bugs, has now been recreated using technology from Google and Apple and brought into line with the apps made in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Bluetooth technology records which phones are within 2 meters of each other for 15 minutes and then alerts people if they have been around someone who later tested positive for Covid-19.

HOW DOES ENGLAND & # 39; S CONTACT TRACING APP WORK?

Bluetooth technology records which phones are within 2 meters of each other for 15 minutes and then alerts people if they have been around someone who later tested positive for Covid-19.

People's phones are only recognized by the system if they run the app themselves – others cannot be recognized.

The contacts it tracks are all anonymous and phones exchange digital "tokens" with any app-using phone within Bluetooth range.

If a person develops symptoms of the coronavirus or tests positive, they can enter that information into the app.

The phone then sends a notification to any devices they exchanged tokens with during the infection window to alert users that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Each phone keeps an individual log of the Bluetooth profiles that someone has come close to. These are then anonymously linked to the users' NHS apps and alerts can be sent even if the person is out of Bluetooth range.

People can delete their data from this app at any time.

Users also have an "isolation attendant" that has a countdown timer if someone needs to self-isolate and that is able to "check-in" using QR codes in places like pubs and restaurants.

Based on the first half of their zip code, they are also shown how high the risk is in their area, with locations classified as low, medium or high risk.

Will the app tell me what to do?

The app can only respond to data entered by people and only ever provides instructions. When a user reports that they have symptoms of a coronavirus – a new persistent cough, fever, or an altered sense of smell or taste – they will be prompted to self-isolate and get tested for 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

If at any time you test positive for Covid-19, you should report this to the app. The app then sends an anonymous notification to anyone they've been within 6 "7" of at least 15 minutes of feeling sick.

That person may then be asked to self-isolate or get tested if they feel uncomfortable.

How well does it work

The app is far from perfect. The Ministry of Health has admitted that around half of those warned they were in the vicinity of an infected person have not been within the 2 m window of danger for 15 minutes.

And three in ten people at risk – 31 percent – receive no notification at all. In studies, it had an accuracy rate of 69 percent in detecting people at risk and an accuracy rate of 55 percent in detecting people who hadn't.

Users also have an "isolation attendant" that has a countdown timer if someone needs to self-isolate and that is able to "check-in" using QR codes in places like pubs and restaurants.

Based on the first half of their zip code, they are also shown how high the risk is in their area, with locations classified as low, medium or high risk.

The app will fully rely on members of the public to work together, volunteer to track their connections, and follow the instructions they receive to test and self-isolate.

However, the app is far from perfect, and the Ministry of Health has admitted that around half of those who are warned they were near an infected person were not within the 2m window of danger for 15 minutes to have.

And three in ten people at risk – 31 percent – receive no notification at all. In studies, it had an accuracy rate of 69 percent in detecting people at risk and an accuracy rate of 55 percent in detecting people who hadn't.

The latest version of the app launches after the first attempt was canceled in June because it did not work on Android smartphones.

The NHS app failed to detect 25 percent of nearby Android users and a staggering 96 percent of iPhones in the Isle of Wight trial.

This was because the Bluetooth system developed by the NHS effectively went into "sleep mode" when the phone screens were locked and the developers were unable to fix the bug.

Various Bluetooth technologies from phone manufacturers Apple and Google themselves have proven to be much better at recognizing other phones.

According to official figures, the app software now reliably detects 99.3 percent of app users in the vicinity, regardless of the type of phone they have.

According to official figures, an average of two to three percent of a phone's battery life is consumed each day.

Another major difference between the two is that Apple and Google's technology completely stores the anonymized log of a person's contacts in the phone – it is never shared with anyone and can be deleted at any time – while the NHS were working on a system that this meant being sent to a centralized database.

Officials changed this to address privacy concerns and are now insisting that the app "track down the virus, not the people".

In another improvement on the privacy the app offers, it has a toggle switch that allows users to toggle contact tracking on or off without uninstalling the app.

Users can choose to stop the app from recording connections to other phones at any time.

And the app no ​​longer sends any information to the NHS or the government. People are only given advice on self-isolation if they are at risk, or they are advised to have a test done if they have symptoms.

People must report a positive test themselves to alert people who may have put them at risk.

Previously hailed as an integral part of the contact tracing system, the app is now an addition to the human system, officials say.

Simon Thompson, App General Manager for England and Wales, said: “My team has worked tirelessly to develop the new NHS Covid-19 App and we are incredibly grateful to all residents of the Isle of Wight, Newham, London, NHS Volunteer Responders and the team that went before us; The insights and insights made the app what it is today.

& # 39; We're now giving companies the time to prepare their venues before the app becomes available across England and Wales. We're working closely to involve, educate, and educate them about how the app works and how they can do their part.

"The QR system is a free, easy and privacy-friendly way to check-in customers at venues. We encourage all businesses to get involved and download and view the official NHS QR code posters."

Newham was selected for the mainland process because it is such a diverse and busy area, the government said. The London borough is severely disadvantaged and extremely diverse – White British only make up 17 percent of the population and there is no ethnic majority.

A number of senior ministers opposed the measure at a crunch meeting, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Mr Sunak is said to have pushed for a limit of at least eight, and Economic Secretary Alok Sharma is said to have advocated a higher number

Rishi Sunak is said to have pushed for a limit of at least eight, and Economic Secretary Alok Sharma is said to have advocated a higher number

HOW IS APPLE AND GOOGLE TECHNOLOGY DIFFERENT FROM THE FAILED NHS PROJECT?

It's not clear why the NHS app used Bluetooth so much worse to detect other phones than the Apple / Google technology.

Officials haven't exactly explained why or how the new system can better measure the distance between two phones, but Apple and Google's proprietary software appears to work significantly better when the phone's screen is locked.

The companies make the phone operating systems themselves so they can better tune the Bluetooth software to it, while the NHS couldn't create a program that could prevent the app from going into sleep mode.

The main difference between the two apps is the way they store data.

Both keep a record of who someone has come into close contact with. However, the NHS app would have stored information in a central database, while the Google / Apple app is decentralized.

NHS app: lists on NHS servers

The NHSX app creates an alert every time two app users come within Bluetooth range of each other and logs it on the user's phone.

Each person would essentially make a list of everyone they have been in contact with. This would be anonymized so that the lists were really just numbers or codes, not lists of names or addresses.

If someone was diagnosed with the coronavirus, any app users they came close to during the time they were classified as infectious would receive a notification that they were at risk of COVID-19 – but it didn't become that Named person who diagnosed it.

NHSX insisted that people's data would have been deleted if they removed the app, but not the data that would have been uploaded to the NHS server if they or a contact had tested positive.

Apple / Google: Included on phones

The Apple and Google decentralized approach removes the server and list element of this process and puts the entire log in someone else's phone.

This app exchanges a digital "token" with any phone that is within Bluetooth range for a specified period of time.

If a person develops symptoms of the coronavirus or tests positive, they can enter that information into the app.

The phone then sends a notification to any devices they exchanged tokens with during the infection window to alert users that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

The server database is not required as each phone keeps an individual log of the Bluetooth profiles that someone has come close to. These are then anonymously linked to the users' NHS apps and alerts can be sent even if the person is out of Bluetooth range.

People can delete their data from this app at any time.

It is also very densely populated and is home to around 352,000 people. Therefore, it is ideal for testing the app in an urban environment where the risk of infection is higher.

People using the app are asked to enter the first half of their zip code so that they can get the risk for their area which is low, medium or high.

This section will then provide links to more information on specific rules if this area is more strictly restricted than other parts of the country.

Other features include an isolation timer that counts down day by day how long people need to stay at home if they have or could have coronavirus.

And people can use a QR code scanner to check in to places they visit and keep a log of where they have been in case they are approached by contact tracers.

Hopefully this will help eliminate problems from people who do not remember where they have been or where they have endangered strangers and have no way to get in touch with them.

The system is based on organizers and promoters ordering and printing their own QR codes online for users to scan upon arrival.

England and Wales will be the last places in the UK to have their own contact tracking app after Scotland released its version yesterday and Northern Ireland went live on August 6th. The Scottish app uses the Apple and Google software in the same way as the Northern Irish one.

It could come faster as the UK Ministry of Health spent some time merging the software with elements of its own previous app that failed.

Scotland decided to disconnect from NHSX, the digital branch of healthcare, when its app launched in June because it wasn't working on iPhones.

The First Scottish Minister announced yesterday: “The launch of the app is a welcome development that provides an additional level of protection and supports NHS Scotland's Test and Protect system to curb the spread of Covid-19 across the country. This will support the work of NHS Scotland and can help avoid local closures.

"The more people download and use the app, the more effective it can be in making connections that might otherwise have been overlooked."

The app was launched with NHS Scotland, which operates separately from other countries in the UK. It uses bluetooth contact tracking software developed by Apple and Google and was created as the user interface by software developers NearForm.

It is because social gatherings in Scotland were limited to a maximum of six people from two neighborhoods. The new rule applies in homes, pubs and restaurants, as well as in private gardens. Children under the age of 12 are excluded and do not count towards the six person rule – this is an exception to the rule that has not been considered in England and which has angered MPs.

A backlash to the draconian plans picked up speed today. Conservative MPs warned that the restrictions could be "worse than the disease itself", condemned the "broad brush" approach and were unhappy that there was no trial in parliament. There are fears that Mr Johnson might be viewed as a "Grinch" if the block for families spending time together continues for the festive season.

A number of senior ministers opposed the measure at a crunch meeting earlier this week when it was passed. Chancellor Rishi Sunak was among those who spoke up. A cabinet source said the rule was opposed by every member of the prime minister's coronavirus strategy committee except Matt Hancock.

The Minister of Health reportedly pushed the decision to adopt the restriction, supported by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Rule of six "Christmas trade costs billions"

The six-point rule will cost the Christmas trade "billions", experts have claimed, as restaurants fear that there will be no party trade and self-caterers will be affected by a large number of cancellations.

As of Monday, under the new lockdown rules in England, no more than six people can come together indoors or outdoors.

The hospitality industry says Boris Johnson's announcement has already been hit hard this week. Self-catering vacation homes have received thousands of cancellations, according to the Professional Association of Self-Caterers.

Yesterday, Mat Hancock was harassed by Conservative MPs about the new measures when Sir Desmond Swayne asked if government policy "had a worse effect than the disease itself".

Mr. Hancock said the new rules were "necessary for the nation's public health".

There are also warnings that the new rules could take billions away from retailers preparing for the holiday season.

Independent retail analyst Richard Hyman told The Guardian, “I think this could cut retail spending by billions. Toys and gifts are bought, of course, but I think clothing sales will hit.

“Clothing retailers need the abundance that parties and family gatherings create. That is clearly being severely restricted. & # 39;

The move has fueled anger within the Conservative Party as Mr Johnson came under increasing pressure to change direction and join Scotland and Wales by exempting children from the tax.

Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, said today he does not think it is "right" to include young children in the rule in comments that are likely to be viewed as a veiled criticism of Johnson's approach.

Tory MPs believe a failure to remove children from politics will lead voters to accuse Mr Johnson of effectively canceling Christmas.

Older Tory figures are furious that the "absolutely grotesque" rule is being introduced without any debate in the House of Commons, claiming the restriction is "worse than the disease itself".

They beat up the government for "imposing profound restrictions on people's personal freedom and family life" without giving MPs a say.

Meanwhile, analysts warned that the rule could cost retailers and the hospitality sector billions of pounds if people cancel parties and large family gatherings.

The "Rule of Six" prohibits gatherings of seven or more people in England from Monday. The directive applies to both indoor and outdoor use.

Nicola Sturgeon is also introducing a rule of six in Scotland, but children under 12 are exempt.

A similar rule is being introduced in Wales, but only applies to indoor gatherings.

Mr Drakeford announced the plans today but said the new rule will not apply to children under the age of 11, while groups of up to 30 will still be allowed to gather outdoors.

Mr Drakeford said that "we must test everything we do against the principle of proportionality" and ask whether it is "right from a public health perspective to impose restrictions on people".

He added: "We did not believe that from that perspective it was right to include young children in the rule of six that we will be introducing from Monday in Wales, where people who meet indoors are limited to that number."

A cabinet minister told The Telegraph it was "worth considering" exempting children from politics in England so they can see their grandparents for Christmas.

"I am not convinced that the prime minister is for it, but he feels he has to," said a cabinet minister.

& # 39; & # 39; I don't understand why we are moving to more draconian powers. The country behaved so well. & # 39;

Tory MPs are now in open revolt on the matter.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith is calling on the government to change its approach.

He said, “Children should not be counted under a certain age. I would prefer the six adult rule.

"We know how this virus spreads, and it comes from young people who go out and party in large groups.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, repeated a similar sentiment when he also criticized the way the rules are imposed.

He said: "If this rule had been debated in parliament, it would have been an opportunity to highlight some of the obvious flaws, such as the failure to exclude children."

He added, “The government is the deepest restriction on people's personal freedom and family life. Why was there no debate and vote in the House of Commons this week? & # 39;

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker told The Sun that if the rule was in effect before Christmas it would be "one of the most damaging things the Conservative Party has ever done". "Boris has to save Christmas – he's not The Grinch," he said.

Mr Baker said this morning that coronavirus restrictions should be voluntary rather than legal.

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