NHS Test & Trace

June 15, 2020
4 minute read
Cristian Halati

At Phlo Digital Pharmacy we have been working around the clock to play our part in minimising the spread of COVID-19. As lockdown restrictions are easing, the UK government is implementing a new strategy for fighting coronavirus: NHS Test and Trace. But what does this mean? 

Essentially, if you test positive for COVID-19, via the NHS Test and Trace programme, the government will attempt to trace and identify all individuals that have been in close contact with you recently, in order to test them and ask them to self-isolate for a period of 14 days to prevent the further spread of disease.  

Contact tracing is not a new concept. It has been applied to diseases such as tuberculosis, ebola, sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, and now COVID-19.  

This strategy is being implemented in England in two ways:  

Conventional contact tracing  

The conventional contact tracing system is run by Public Health England. Once a person has been diagnosed with COVID-19, they will be contacted by the team from the Test and Trace service and asked to provide information on who they have been in contact with. This information will include address, e-mail and phone numbers. The Test and Trace service will then get in touch with those that may be at risk and ask them to self-isolate for a period of 14 days, regardless of whether the person becomes ill or not.  

Learn more about NHS test and trace system here.

The NHS COVID-19 app 

UPDATE: as of June 18, the Government has announced that it is abandoning development of the NHS contact tracing app in favour of working with Google and Apple.

The app is central to the UK’s approach in managing COVID-19 post-lockdown and is aimed at enhancing the conventional contact tracing that is already in place.  

The app works in a simple way: using Bluetooth (which must always be turned on), the app broadcasts a random unique ID (that contains no personal information) and collects the random IDs of the other apps it interacts with, recording the time and distance of the interaction. All encounters with other phones are kept for a period of 28 days.  

On a daily basis, the NHS app will ask users a simple question: “How are you feeling today?”. If you become unwell, you can choose to upload your unique random ID and other interaction data to a central database. Using an algorithm, the central database will then assess all uploaded interactions and identify the risk posed by each interaction. Users that have had a high-risk interaction with the unwell user are then sent notifications with targeted NHS advice.  

The Government has made the following promises regarding privacy and data protection: 

If you have any concerns about using the NHS COVID-19 app, please read this article by Ian Levy of the National Cyber Security Centre.  

Learn more about the app here. You can download the NHS COVID-19 app on the Apple Store and Google Play.  

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