‘Protect Scotland’ contact-tracing app is launched by Nicola Sturgeon


Scotland has leaped ahead of England in its coronavirus response again today as the ‘Protect Scotland’ contact-tracing app launched for members of the public.

Nicola Sturgeon today urged residents north of the border to download the software as she beat Boris Johnson to the punch once again.   

England and Wales will now become the last places in the UK to have a coronavirus contact tracing app after Northern Ireland started using one in early August.

Scotland’s app uses the Apple and Google software in the same way as Northern Ireland’s does and has come faster because the Department of Health in England is still trying to merge the software with elements of its own earlier app that failed.

Scotland decided to cut ties with NHSX, the digital arm of the health service, when its app tanked in June because it didn’t work on iPhones.

England must continue to wait for trials of a hybrid between Google/Apple software being used in multiple countries around the world, and the remnants of the NHS project, which they said was better at evaluating how close together people had actually been.

The launch of the app today is just the latest in a line of issues on which Ms Sturgeon has bettered Boris Johnson, either my announcing measures first or taking more sensible action. 

The First Minister today announced the same ‘rule of six’ on social distancing that Mr Johnson unveiled yesterday but has decided to exclude children.

MPs in Britain are calling for the same move after complaining that the strict, ‘broad brush’ measures will make life difficult again just weeks after lockdown ended. 

Nicola Sturgeon’s government today launched the ‘Protect Scotland’ contact tracing app which has severed ties with the NHS project and used software developed by Apple and Google

People who have tested positive log their diagnosis in the app

The app alerts users if they have been in close contact for 15 minutes

The app alerts users if they have been in close contact for 15 minutes with someone who has tested positive and advises them to self-isolate and get tested

The First Minister of Scotland said today: ‘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.

‘This will support the work of NHS Scotland and has the potential to help avoid local lockdowns.

‘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.’

The app has been launched alongside NHS Scotland, which operates separately to other countries in the UK.

It uses Bluetooth contact-tracing software developed by Apple and Google and was the user interface was made by software developers NearForm.

When two people running the app on their smartphones come within two metres of one another for 15 minutes or more, the apps keep anonymous logs of the contact using exchanged codes without any personal information.

If one of them later tests positive for Covid-19, the app will alert anyone else whose app their app has exchanged codes with.

That person will then be told to self-isolate. The apps do not store any personal data and are intended to be used alongside traditional human contact tracing.

Ms Sturgeon added: ‘This will allow people to self-isolate quickly if they are exposed to the virus, reducing the risk of them infecting others.

‘We all have a part to play in suppressing the virus and downloading the app – alongside other vital measures such as following hygiene and physical distancing guidance – will help protect you, your family and your community.

‘We also know that not everyone uses a smartphone or will be able to or want to access the app, which is why this software is very much there to complement existing contact tracing methods.’

NHS re-launches England and Wales’ delayed contact tracing app

The much-delayed NHS Test and Trace smartphone app was re-launched in July with a second round of trials on the Isle of Wight and in the London borough of Newham.

England’s beleaguered app, of which the first version had to be scrapped in June after a string of failures, has now been recreated using technology made by Google and Apple.

Officials are rolling out trials of the app – which was originally slated for release in mid-May – to some staff in the NHS and residents of the two areas to test whether it is good enough to use nationwide.

If it is found to work, it will be used alongside the human contact-tracing system which is based on call centres and local councils visiting people’s homes.

Bluetooth technology will keep a record of which phones spend 15 minutes within 2metres (6’7″) of one another and then alert people if they have been near someone who later tests positive for Covid-19.

Users will also have an ‘isolation companion’ which has countdown timer if someone has to self-isolate, and will be able to ‘check in’ to places such as pubs and restaurants using QR codes.

They will also be shown what the risk level is in their local area based on the first half of their postcode, with places being categorised as low, medium or high risk.

The app will rely totally on members of the public co-operating, volunteering to let it track their connections and following the instructions it gives them on getting tested and self-isolating.

It comes as social gatherings were limited in Scotland to a maximum of six people from two houesholds.

The new rule applies in people’s houses, pubs and restaurants and in private gardens. Children under 12 are excluded and won’t count towards the six-person rule.

For customers in hospitality premises it will also be mandatory to wear a face covering when moving around, and staff will have to do the same. Previously people were only advised to follow the rule. 

Meanwhile, people in England and Wales are still waiting for the NHS contact tracing app that was promised to them by May by Matt Hancock.

The beleaguered app, of which the first version had to be scrapped in June after a string of failures, has now been recreated using technology made by Google and Apple.

Officials rolled out trials of the app in July to some staff in the NHS and residents of the Isle of Wight and the London borough of Newham to test whether it is good enough to use nationwide.

If it is found to work, it will be used alongside the human contact-tracing system which is based on call centres and local councils visiting people’s homes.

Bluetooth technology will keep a record of which phones spend 15 minutes within 2metres (6’7″) of one another and then alert people if they have been near someone who later tests positive for Covid-19.

Users will also have an ‘isolation companion’ which has countdown timer if someone has to self-isolate, and will be able to ‘check in’ to places such as pubs and restaurants using QR codes.

They will also be shown what the risk level is in their local area based on the first half of their postcode, with places being categorised as low, medium or high risk.

The app will rely totally on members of the public co-operating, volunteering to let it track their connections and following the instructions it gives them on getting tested and self-isolating.

HOW DO CONTACT TRACING APPS WORK?

How does contact logging work?

While the app is running Bluetooth technology will keep a record of which phones spend 15 minutes within 2metres (6’7″) of one another and then alert people if they have been near someone who later tests positive for Covid-19. 

People’s phones are only recognised by the system if they are running the app themselves – it cannot detect others.

The contacts it keeps track of are all anonymous and phones exchange digital ‘tokens’ with every app-using phone within Bluetooth range.

If one person develops symptoms of the coronavirus or tests positive, they will be able to enter this information into the app.

The phone will then send out a notification to all the devices they have exchanged tokens with during the infection window, to make people aware they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Each phone keeps an individual log of the Bluetooth profiles someone has come close to. These will then be linked anonymously to people’s NHS apps and alerts can be pushed through that even after the person is out of bluetooth range.

People can delete their data from this app at any time.

Will the app tell me what to do?

The app can only react to data that people put into it, and it will only ever offer guidance. If a user reports that they have symptoms of coronavirus – a new continuous cough, a fever, or a changed sense of smell or taste, they will be urged to self-isolate for 10 days from the start of the symptoms and to get tested.

If they test positive for Covid-19 at any time, they should report this to the app. The app then sends out an anonymous alert to everyone with whom that person has been within 2m (6’7″) of for 15 minutes or more since they started feeling ill. 

That person may then be asked to self-isolate or to get tested if they feel unwell.

 

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