People across Wales are being urged to download a new NHS Covid-19 app to help stop the spread of coronavirus as case numbers rise.
It will be available to those aged 16 and over, and forms a central part of the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme identifying contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.
The app, which uses Google and Apple technology, will alert the user if they have been within two metres for more than 15 minutes of somebody who has tested positive, and who also has the app.
However, there are concerns that take-up of the app could be as low as 10%, according to UK Government sources.
Pilot studies on the Isle of Wight, in the London borough of Newham and among NHS volunteers showed that between 30% and 10% downloaded it.
“The launch of the NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of Wales’ coronavirus response, supporting the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme,” Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething said.
“The more people who download and use this app, the more it will help us to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We have worked closely with the app development team to ensure it works seamlessly across Wales and England, providing people with the right advice based on where they live. In Wales, the app will complement our existing contact tracing and testing services and will further support our co-ordinated response to COVID-19 at both a local and national level.
“I strongly encourage everyone in Wales to download and use the app to keep Wales safe.”
The app works by logging the amount of time you spend near other app users, and the distance between you, so it can alert you if someone you have been close to later tests positive for COVID-19 – even if you don’t know each other.
The app will advise you to self-isolate if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable you to check symptoms, book a test if needed and get your test results.
In a joint statement, Apple and Google said: “We built the exposure notifications system to enable public health authorities in their efforts to develop apps to help reduce the spread of the virus while ensuring people can trust in the privacy-preserving design. We are committed to supporting the government’s effort to launch an app based on this technology.”
The roll-out of the app in Wales coincides with a national campaign around how people in Wales can best support the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme.
- Only getting a test if they are showing symptoms;
- Self-isolating when required;
- Working with local contact tracers if they are contacted.
Wales’ contact tracing system – which is a publicly-run service and locally delivered – is working well, the Welsh Government said. Latest stats show 94% of cases are being successfully contacted.
Welsh residents are also being reminded to continue to keep Wales safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by:
- Always keeping a distance
- Washing hands regularly
- Working from home wherever possible
- Following local restrictions
- Following the rules about meeting people
- Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.