Coronavirus: NHS Tests Covid-19 Contact Tracing App At RAF Base

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The United Kingdom’s Coronavirus tracing app that utilises Bluetooth is being tested at a Royal Air Force base in North Yorkshire

The National Health Service (NHS) is testing its forthcoming Covid-19 contact-tracing app at a Royal Air Force base in North Yorkshire.

The United Kingdom is developing its own Covid-19 tracking app, that will warn people if they have recently been in close proximity to someone suspected to be infected with the coronavirus, and it will utilise Bluetooth technology.

The use of Bluetooth is important, as until recently Mobile tracking apps typically utilised location data, which have raised concerns among privacy-conscious Europeans.

coronavirus Image credit: World Health Organisation
Image credit: World Health Organisation

Bluetooth use

The NHS app is being developed by NHSX – the health service’s digital innovation unit. As part of this development, the NHS has been “working closely with the world’s leading tech companies” on the UK’s tracing app.

Apple and Google of course are jointly developing an API for their respective mobile operating systems that could assist governments in tracking the spread of Covid-19 through the use of the Bluetooth technology built into smartphones.

Now the BBC has reported that the NHS has begun testing the UK app at RAF Leemin in North Yorkshire, as the site has past experience of testing apps and other new processes on behalf of the military.

According to the BBC, the NHS app works by logging Bluetooth signals when smartphone owners are close to each other. This means that if someone were to develop Covid-19 symptoms, an alert can be sent to other users they may have potentially infected.

It would typically tell a person “You’re OK now,” or: “You need to isolate yourself and stay at home.”

According to the BBC, the health secretary Matt Hancock speaking today in the House of Commons, said that the trials “are going well.”

“The more people who sign up for this new app when it goes live, the better informed our response will be and the better we can therefore protect the NHS,” Hancock reportedly said.

He added the software would be used in conjunction with medical tests and manual contact tracing by humans.

App testing

Germany is currently weeks away of having its coronavirus contact tracing app ready for download and use.

Italy meanwhile said that it is testing a smartphone app developed by tech start-up Bending Spoons to track people who test positive for the new coronavirus, as part of efforts to lift its nationwide lockdown.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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