Coronavirus: Scotland Launches Covid-19 Contact Tracing App

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Scottish government makes its Coronavirus contact tracing app (Protect Scotland) live as it tries to slow Covid-19 infections

The Scottish government has launched its ‘Protect Scotland’ Coronavirus contact tracing app, amid a worrying resurgence of the global pandemic.

The ‘Protect Scotland’ app is designed to help Scottish health authorities suppress the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

Earlier this month Apple and Alphabet’s Google division had announced a new Covid-19 contact tracing system, without the need for governments to build their own individual apps.

Contact-tracing

The new Apple/Google system is called ‘Exposure Notifications Express’ (ENE), and it allows a public health authority to submit a configuration file to Apple and Google.

The two tech giants will then use that file to set up systems that phone users can opt in to, in order to determine whether they have been near someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

The global Coronavirus pandemic has seen many governments around the world rolling out their own individual Covid-19 contact tracing apps.

Northern Ireland released its app in July, but the app for England and Wales is still being tested.

Scotland modeled its own app on the Republic of Ireland’s app, called Covid Tracker, developed by a company called NearForm.

Northern Ireland’s app is also based on the NearForm app.

Protect Scotland

And now the country has announced the ‘Protect Scotland’ app has gone live, and is available to download for free via Apple and Google stores.

The app’s release is also supported by a dedicated Protect Scotland website, and the idea is that the app is an extra tool complementing existing person-to-person contact tracing which remains the main component of NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system.

The Scottish government said that people’s privacy will be protected as the app uses Bluetooth technology to anonymously alert users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, and advises them to self-isolate.

Users of the app who test positive will still get a call from a contact tracer to confirm their details and who they have been in close contact with.

It seems the app does not store details on an individual or their location but uses encrypted, anonymised codes exchanged between smartphones to determine all close contacts.

“The launch of the app is a welcome development which will offer an additional level of protection – supporting NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system as it works to drive down the spread of Covid-19 across the country,” said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“I would encourage everyone to download the free app if they have a compatible smartphone, and help slow the spread of Covid-19. This will support the work of NHS Scotland and has the potential to help avoid local lockdowns,” said Sturgeon.

“The more people who download and use the app, the more effective it can be in helping to make connections that may otherwise have been missed,” said Sturgeon. This will allow people to self-isolate quickly if they are exposed to the virus, reducing the risk of them infecting others.

And NearForm’s boss confirmed the app was developed using open source technology.

“We’re delighted to partner with NHS Scotland on the Protect Scotland app which puts power in citizens’ pockets to join the fight against Covid-19,” said Cian Ó Maidín, CEO NearForm.

“This open source technology was built with privacy and data protection at its core and, through anonymous keys, allows Scottish citizens to engage, protect each other and break transmission chains,” said Ó Maidín.

“The Scottish Government has taken a great approach, using open source software, that has been peer reviewed and rolled out successfully in Ireland and Northern Ireland,” he added.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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