Government to trial new coronavirus tracing app - which was initially promised in May

Baroness Dido Harding, executive chairwoman of NHS Test and Trace and Prime Minister Boris Johnson,

Baroness Dido Harding, executive chairwoman of NHS Test and Trace and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

A new coronavirus contact tracing app will be trialled in England this week after the government finally followed advice and utilised technology from Apple and Google.

The initial version tested on the Isle of Wight was ditched by the government in June over accuracy issues, weeks after health secretary Matt Hancock first suggested it would be available in mid-May.

The app is intended to support the NHS Test and Trace effort by keeping a log of others who come into close contact but the plans have been marred by constant delays and privacy concerns.

The government has since moved on to technology designed by Apple and Google – already used in several countries across the world – which handles data in a more privacy-friendly manner and does not suffer the same type of accuracy error.

But the government said it had issues with the new technology measuring distance between people correctly.

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According to the BBC, the Isle of Wight will be part of the trial once again, as well as one other area in England and a volunteer group.

'We need the app to help stop transmission by tracing close-proximity contacts as quickly and as comprehensively as possible, capturing those contacts we don't know or don't remember meeting,' Professor Christophe Fraser, a scientific adviser to the Department of Health from Oxford University, told the broadcaster.

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'The app should enable us to return to more normal daily activities with the reassurance that our contacts can be rapidly and anonymously notified if we get infected.'

Northern Ireland has already launched its Covid-19 contact tracing app, while Scotland is expected to have its own by autumn.

The Apple/Google approach works by carrying out the contact matching process on a user's smartphone itself, making it more secure and harder for any potential hackers to access and de-anonymise any data for nefarious means.

Their system also bars authorities from using the technology to collect any location data from users.

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