Newham to pilot coronavirus contact tracing app

The contact tracing app is designed to alert users if they have been in close proximity to someone c

The contact tracing app is designed to alert users if they have been in close proximity to someone confirmed to have the virus. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Images - Credit: PA

Newham has been selected as one of two areas to pilot a new coronavirus contact tracing app.

No date has been set for the launch, but the app will be rolled out in other trial area - the Isle of Wight - from today (Thursday, August 13), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced.

The app - the second version to be tested - adopts an Apple and Google-developed system which uses Bluetooth to keep an anonymous log of people a user has been close to that they may not know, such as a stranger on a bus.

It features alerts based on postcode, letting users know the level of coronavirus risk in their district, as well as QR check-in for whenever a user visits a public venue.

If a user is told to self-isolate, a timer feature will help count down that period.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “We’ve worked with tech companies, international partners, privacy and medical experts to develop an app that is simple to use, secure and will help keep the country safe.

“We are hugely grateful to everyone playing their part to rigorously test the new app and provide the foundation for a national rollout.”

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It is not known when the government intends to make the app more widely available across England. Northern Ireland has already launched its own app, while Scotland is expected to have one by autumn.

Unmesh Desai, the London Assembly Member for City and East, welcomed the announcement that Newham would help to pilot the app.

“Newham has sadly been one of the hardest hit areas of the capital during the pandemic,” he said.

“To protect local people against a potential second wave, we will need to use all the tools at our disposal. In the meantime, from City Hall, I will keep pressing for answers as to why Newham has been so disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, compared to other neighbouring boroughs with similar demographics and levels of deprivation.”

Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz added: “The app is a welcomed addition to all the measures that our public health team have put in place working closely with our local health partners. With its easy to use features, the app will be available in different languages and comes with the assurance that personal data stays with the user so that people’s privacy is protected.”