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Track and trace app: How to get England’s new covid contact-tracing app – when is it out?

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The new app will let people scan barcode-like QR codes to register when they visit hospitality venues. The covid contact-tracing system will implement Apple and Google’s method of detecting other smartphones in the vicinity using bluetooth technology. Businesses are being asked to help and support the app by displaying QR code posters. Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the app’s launch as a “defining moment”.

When will the covid contact-tracing app be out?

Speaking about the importance of the app, Mr Hancock said: “We need to use every tool at our disposal to control the spread of the virus including cutting-edge technology.

“The launch of the app later this month across England and Wales is a defining moment and will aid our ability to contain the virus at a critical time.”

The app is expected to officially go live in England and Wales on September 24.

Some hospitality venues have already been using their own QR-code based systems for test and trace, but are being asked to switch to the NHS version instead.

An alternative system, such as a handwritten register, also has to be kept up for customers who don’t own a smartphone, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Welsh Health and Social Services Minister Vaughan Gething welcomed the move.

He said teaming up with England for the app was “the most practical option”, and the move reflects “movement across our shared border”.

Mr Gething added: “It makes sense to use the same app, working in exactly the same way, regardless of which country you’re in.”

Managing director of England and Wales’ app, Simon Thompson, said: “My team have worked tirelessly to develop the new NHS Covid-19 app and we are incredibly grateful to all residents of the Isle of Wight, London Borough of Newham, NHS Volunteer Responders and the team that went before us; the learnings and insight have made the app what it is today.

“We are now giving businesses the time to prepare their venues ahead of the app becoming available across England and Wales.

“We are working closely to engage, educate and inform them about how the app works and how they can play their part.

“The QR system is a free, easy and privacy preserving way to check in customers to venues, and we encourage all businesses to get involved and download and display the official NHS QR code posters.”

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One major difference between the old app and the new one is that Google and Apple’s technology stores the anonymous log of contacts entirely in the user’s phone – it is never shared with anyone else and can be deleted at any time.

The NHS app, on the other hand, worked on a system which meant it had to be sent to a centralised database.

Officials have changed this to stop concerns about privacy, now inviting the app “tracks the virus, not people”.

Another improvement in terms of privacy means the app will have a toggle for people to turn the contact tracing on or off without uninstalling the app.

Users can choose to make the app stop recording connections to other phones at any time.

It comes as Scotland launched its own contact tracing app on Thursday.

The app has already had huge success in the country after it was downloaded almost 600,000 times.

The Protect Scotland app tells people if they have been in close contact with someone who later tests positive for the virus.

Northern Ireland was the first administration in the UK to launch a contact trace app, StopCOVID NI was officially released at the end of July.

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