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NHS COVID-19 app now compatible across whole of UK, Jersey and Gibraltar

Written by on 5th November 2020

The NHS COVID-19 app for contact tracing will now be compatible with similar apps in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Jersey and Gibraltar from today [Thursday 5].

All the apps will be interoperable with one another, meaning a user of any of the apps will be notified if they have been a ‘close contact’ of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus and is using any of the Protect Scotland, StopCovid NI, Jersey COVID alert, Beat COVID Gibraltar or Wales and England’s NHS COVID-19 apps.

This new interoperability will give people greater protection as they cross borders and national restrictions change and vary across different parts of the UK over the coming months.

Wales’ fire-break restrictions will come to an end on Monday 9th, when new national measures will come into place to protect people’s health and limit harm from the virus.

Travel outside of Wales is permissible for essential reasons, such as for work, education and compassionate grounds. Welsh residents are urged to comply with the regulations and restrictions of the country they’re visiting.

Wales’ Health and Social Services Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

“As we adapt to living with coronavirus it is increasingly important that all the contact tracing apps used across the UK are able to safely exchange and utilise data when people are travelling across different countries.

 “These apps and their ability to work with one another are key tools in supporting our Test Trace Protect programme in Wales, and equivalent programmes in other countries, helping to control the spread of the virus and ultimately saving lives.”

UK Government’s Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said:

“It is vital that we work together across the UK using every tool at our disposal to stop the spread of the virus, to protect all citizens and save lives.

“Today marks an important step forward in our UK-wide pandemic response, ensuring that no matter which contact tracing app you are using across the UK, Jersey or Gibraltar, you will be notified if you are at risk of having caught the virus.

“We all have a part to play in preventing the spread of coronavirus, including isolating when notified to do so.”

Scotland’s Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, said:

“The Protect Scotland app is a vital tool in helping suppress COVID-19 and I welcome that it is now interoperable with the NHS COVID-19 app.

“Scotland developed its own ‘federated server’ which allows for all proximity apps within the UK, Crown Dependencies and Gibraltar to work with each other for the first time. As part of this, the Protect Scotland app, like the NHS COVID-19 app, is now also interoperable with apps in Northern Ireland, Jersey and Gibraltar.

“While people are being advised to only travel for essential purposes at the moment, this compatibility will allow those having to travel to continue to be alerted via the Protect Scotland app if they have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.”

After entering a positive test result, the NHS COVID-19 app users are asked if they wish to share their unique IDs. If a user consents, this will be shared with other contact tracing apps, as well as NHS COVID-19 app users.

This latest update does not impact the high levels of privacy ensured by the NHS COVID-19 app, with all personal data continuing to be held solely on an individual’s device.

Users don’t need to do anything for this change to happen as each app will continue to use the phone user’s Bluetooth data for supplying location and proximity data.

The app does not hold personal information such as your name, address or date of birth, and only requires the first half of your postcode to ensure local outbreaks can be managed. No personal data is shared with governments, Police or the NHS.

The Wales and England app has been downloaded over 19 million times and is a key part of each country’s contact tracing programme, helping to reduce transmission rates across the UK.