NHS COVID-19 is a new contact-tracing app that has been designed and built by the NHS to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Once you’ve installed the app, it will send you an alert if you’ve been in close contact with other users of the app who’ve reported that they’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms. This allows you to take steps to avoid passing the virus on (for example by self-isolating).
- If you’d like to install the app (it’s entirely voluntary), you’ll be helping to slow the transmission of the coronavirus.
- You can decide if you want to tell the app that you’re suffering from coronavirus symptoms.
- The app does not collect any of your personal data.
- Any information you choose to submit is protected at all times.
- Any information you submit is deleted once it is no longer needed to help manage the spread of coronavirus.
How does the app work?
The NHS COVID-19 app was designed and built by the NHS digital team, and works like this:
- Once you’ve installed the app on your phone, it can detect (using Bluetooth) if other phones that are also running the app are nearby.
- Importantly, the app knows how close it has been to other phones running the app, and for how long. This allows the app to build up an idea of which of these phones owners are most at risk.
- If you then use the app to report that you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms, all the phones that have been nearby will receive an alert from the app.
- Users reading the alert will now know they may have been near a person with coronavirus, and can then self-isolate.
- If the NHS later discovers that your diagnosis was wrong (and your reported symptoms are not coronavirus), the other users will receive another alert, letting them know if they can stop self-isolating.
Please download and use the NHS COVID-19 app. Each time a user reports symptoms (or even just installs the app), it helps the NHS to warn people who may become ill, and builds a picture of how the coronavirus is spread across the country.
How do I install the app?
The NHS COVID-19 App currently only works on the Isle of Wight. More information can be found here: https://covid19.nhs.uk/isle-of-wight.html
You should only download the app, when available, from official stores:
What permissions does the app require?
For the app to work, you’ll be asked to allow Bluetooth and Notifications.
Please note that Bluetooth will only work on Android phones ifLocation Services are enabled, so you’ll be asked to turn this feature on.
The app does not collect any location data.
What information do I need to provide to use the app?
Once you’ve installed the app, you’ll need to register your phone.
You be asked for the first part of your postcode so the NHS can plan your local NHS response. The app also records your phone’s make and model, which it needs to accurately measure the distance between the phones of people who’ve installed the app.
Unlike most apps, you will not be asked for any other information at this stage (such as name or email). No personal information is collected.
In order for the app to work, all users are assigned a random installation ID by the NHS. The NHS securely stores the first part of your postcode, your installation ID, and your phone make and model. Since no personal information is collected or stored by NHS, it’s not possible to link the installation ID to you as an individual.
As an extra layer of security, the app creates a different daily ID. This keeps your installation ID private from other users you may interact with.
What can other people see?
The app automatically searches for nearby phones that are using the same app by using Bluetooth Low Energy (so it won’t drain your battery). If it finds one, the apps will exchange and securely log the following information:
- the other app’s daily ID
- the date of the encounter
- the Bluetooth signal strength and power (used to estimate the distance between the phones)
- the length of time the phones were in contact
If you meet the same person on another day, the apps will see different Daily ID and will treat it as a brand new encounter. This has been intentionally designed into the app.
What happens if I report symptoms?
If you report coronavirus symptoms, other users who you’ve been near may receive an alert in their app, telling them that they may have been exposed to coronavirus.
They will not be told who reported symptoms or when the contact occurred. This protects your privacy.
What data does the NHS collect?
If you choose to submit your symptoms to the NHS, and the symptoms indicate you might have coronavirus, you will be asked to send the details of the encounters your phone has collected.
If you give your consent, the app will securely send these details to the NHS digital team:
- no other information is sent
- only the NHS has access to the details
- the details will determine if any of these encounters might have caused someone to be exposed to coronavirus; this will always be based on the latest medical research
The details you submit let the NHS know how many apps in a postcode area have reported symptoms (or may have been exposed). This will be used to plan your local NHS resources, and to help learn more about the spread of coronavirus.
The NHS can decrypt the daily IDs from the details you submit to find the Installation ID of any apps that need to be notified about possible exposure to coronavirus. The NHS sends these notifications securely to the apps assessed to be at risk, giving the appropriate advice.