How will the test, track and trace app work?

A mobile app to try and control the spread of coronavirus will be ready in weeks to be used by the whole of the UK, an NHS executive has said.

The app, called test, track and trace, was trialled first on the Isle of Wight from May 5. NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould has said the app is two to three weeks away for the rest of the UK.

It aims to map the people that coronavirus sufferers come into contact with, so it can work out who else is at risk.

But how does the app work, and how does it fit into the Government’s wider coronavirus plan?

A coronavirus testing official (PA)

Contact tracing

The app is part of the UK broader effort to control coronavirus by working out who has the virus.

The Government set themselves a target of hiring 18,000 new contact tracers by mid may whose efforts will support the work of the app. However, so far only 1,500 contract tracers have been recruited.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock encouraged people on the Isle of Wight to download the app to help the UK move out of lockdown.

He said: “By downloading the app you are protecting your own health, you are protecting the health of your loved ones and the health of your community.

“I know that the people of the Isle of Wight will embrace this with enthusiasm because by embarking on this project and by embracing test, track and trace you will be saving lives.”

The app is said to be key to helping the UK move out of lockdown (PA)

How does the app work?

The app uses Bluetooth technology to log everyone you come into contact with.

If you or any of these people have coronavirus symptoms, when you or they tell the app, it alerts everyone you’ve been in contact with.

The app runs in the background at all times and you need to keep Bluetooth on for it to work. The form of Bluetooth the app uses shouldn’t drain your battery, Mr Hancock said on Monday.

You also have to enter your postcode and allow the app to give notifications.

If you report that you’ve had coronavirus symptoms, the app tells you to book a test.

It then finds the people you have been in contact with over the past 28 days and tells them to self-isolate for 14 days and monitor their symptoms – in line with current Government coronavirus advice.

If your test comes back negative, the people you have been in contact with can come out of isolation. If you are positive for the virus, they have to continue to self-isolate for seven days.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said at the daily coronavirus briefing: “Something that is automated, that can work alongside traditional epidemiological contact tracing is potentially going to be of very great use to us.”

One month since UK lockdown – in pictures

Will the app be effective?

The app will not be a “silver bullet”, according to Matthew Gould, head of NHSX, which developed it.

It is voluntary, so relies on people signing up to use it.

Uptake is going to be important and so is the compliance with the app and regularly using it over a sustained period of time – and those are unknowns at the moment,” Professor Van-Tam added.

“The market research we’ve done, I think, indicates for the UK that there’s a fairly significant optimism that people will engage with something that is clearly about protecting the NHS.”

Mr Hancock waved away security concerns on Monday, saying the app had been approved as safe by the UK’s national cyber security centre.

Coronavirus testing staff (AFP via Getty Images)

Will lockdown end first on the Isle of Wight?

The app has been created to help the UK move safely out of coronavirus lockdown – but restrictions will not be lifted on the Isle of Wight first.

“For the Isle of Wight, all the same safeguards apply, they should still be following all the same social distancing advice,” said Professor John Newton, director of health improvement for Public Health England.