Matt Hancock’s long-awaited coronavirus tracking app to rely on using QR codes

PUBLISHED: 11:32 11 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:39 11 September 2020

The NHS Covid-19 app on a mobile phone. Photograph: Scott D'Arcy/PA Wire.

The NHS Covid-19 app on a mobile phone. Photograph: Scott D'Arcy/PA Wire.

Matt Hancock has announced a new coronavirus tracking app, with QR codes playing a key role in the technology.

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Hancock had originally announced a smart phone app which would track coronavirus cases using Bluetooth technology would launch in May, but suffered set backs after the UK attempted to use technology differing to other countries.

The new app will work in conjunction with pubs, restaurants and other businesses using QR codes for customers to check in when they visit.


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The Department of Health and Social Care said trials which began last month show the app is “highly effective when used alongside traditional contact tracing” to identify contacts of people who have tested positive for coronavirus.

It is due to launch across both countries on September 24, the department said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA WireHealth Secretary Matt Hancock. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

The app, which uses bluetooth to keep an anonymous log of those in close proximity, has been beset by problems and delays.

The latest version has been trialled once again on the Isle of Wight and also in the London Borough of Newham and among NHS Volunteer Responders.

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Hancock described the launch as a “defining moment”.

He 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.”

He said hospitality businesses can download posters allowing customers to scan QR codes, describing it as “an easy and simple way to collect contact details to support the NHS Test and Trace system”.

The department said businesses who are already using their own QR system are being encouraged to switch to the NHS Test and Trace QR code.

It added that an alternative check-in method will be required to collect the contact details of those who do not have the app, suggesting a handwritten register.

As well as businesses in the hospitality sector, universities, hospitals, leisure premises, civic centres and libraries are also being urged to display posters in communal areas such as cafes where people are likely to congregate for more than 15 minutes and in close proximity.

This week Scotland launched a fully functioning app. Hancock had been urged three times by the SNP to welcome the app - and to explain when his own would be ready.

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