NHS coronavirus app to be trialled this week on Isle of Wight

Owl has already reported on preliminary testing involving the RAF. The Isle of Wight is an intriguing choice. Sky news reports: “It has previously been suggested that areas that trial the app could also have coronavirus lockdown measures eased.”

Jon Stone Policy Correspondent www.independent.co.uk

A new NHS app to help trace those who have come into contact with coronavirus will be rolled out later this month, the government has said.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Sunday morning that the software will “go into testing this week on the Isle of Wight”.

The app is being developed by NHSX, the digital arm of the health service. Matthew Gould, the arm’s chief executive, told MPs last week it would be “ready for when it will be needed” and trialled in a small area.

“That system’s going into testing this week on the Isle of Wight and then later in the month that app will be rolled out and deployed, assuming the tests are successful of course, to the population at large,” Mr Shapps told Sky News.

He added that “the idea is that we will encourage many as people to take this up as possible” , and that it would need at least 50-60 per cent of the population using it to work, adding: “I appreciate for various reasons that not everybody will download it.”

Addressing privacy concerns, Mr Shapps described the situation as “a huge national effort” and said: “It will be the best possible way to help the NHS, in fact it will be an NHS app. It will be completely confidential, the information doesn’t stay on there, you don’t know who the individuals are, but what it will do is alert someone if they’ve been near someone who has coronavirus.”

Other countries such as China, South Korea and Singapore have used contact tracing apps to help suppress the virus while allowing people more freedom than a full lockdown would allow.

Used in tandem with large-scale testing of the population, the apps have proven useful in keeping the transmission rate of the virus low – with a so-called “R” number below 1.

In Europe, Germany has also started to pursue a similar strategy, though concerns have been raised there about privacy.

In some countries, such as India, the app has been made compulsory for workers.

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Sir Ian Diamond, the UK’s national statistician and head of the UK Statistics Authority, said it was too early to say how many people had had the virus. 

“What we now need to do is monitor the course of the epidemic to understand the proportion of people at any time who are carrying the virus and the proportion of people who have the antivirus,” he told the BBC’s Anrew Marr Show.

He said a new survey to determine additional useful information about the virus was “just starting to get some initial results”.