Get the NHS Covid-19 app, turn the tide
MORE THAN 16 MILLION PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY DOWNLOADED THE NHS COVID-19 APP – SO PLAY YOUR PART AND HELP SAVE LIVES…
The NHS Covid-19 app was launched last month, and by downloading it millions of people are already doing their bit to control the virus. Here Christophe Fraser, professor of pathogen dynamics at the Nuffield Dept of Medicine, University of Oxford, answers your questions about privacy, quarantine and more.
QWhy should I download the app?
useful in terms of being able to scan a QR code when you go to a venue – you’ll be among the first to get a notification if there’s been an outbreak in one of the places you’ve been. If you’re unfortunate enough that one of the people you’ve been in close contact with in the past few days is diagnosed with Covid, you’ll get a notification straightaway so you have the opportunity to avoid infecting others, including loved ones and vulnerable people. If you’re experiencing symptoms (fever, loss of smell or taste or continuous cough), you can also order a test through the app.
I get an alert, am I breaking the law by leaving the house, or is it more, “I’m going to stay home so I don’t infect my granny”? AStay
at home because you don’t want to infect vulnerable people. We all have loved ones with other illnesses that make them even more susceptible to very bad outcomes from Covid and, although it’s much rarer, we’ve also seen bad outcomes among some younger people.
But what if I don’t want anyone to know where I am? Is the Government watching me?
No. The app doesn’t use GPS at all and the only information on location you give is the first part of your postcode. It doesn’t track your location at all. Information about the contacts you’ve made and the places you’ve been stays on your phone, and it’s all about your being able to get notification of exposure to help you manage your risk.
QWill it sell my data to advertisers?
AAbsolutely not. The data about the contacts is entirely private, you have complete control over it and you can turn contact tracing on and off. It’s private information that stays on your phone.
Can I enter my test result in there, even if I didn’t order it through the app?
Whichever way you got tested, you can enter the information into the app, but if you ordered a test through the app the result gets through more quickly to speed up contact tracing. Speed is really important, because one of the things we’ve learnt about Covid is that it transmits pretty quickly and you start being infectious for a couple of days before you develop symptoms and on the day when you first get symptoms. I know that the testing has been stretched, but if you have symptoms it’s essential to get tested and it’s not the time to go out.
I’m not sure if I can be bothered to install it. Will it really make a difference?
We will make a difference. We’ve done modelling and looked at the data. We can see some countries that managed to turn the tide on the epidemic and our team all agree that the more people who download it, the more we can add to the control effort. If more of us do it, the more able we will be to turn the tide.
We need some sense of solidarity and to support people who are isolating and quarantining, because it’s important that schools and universities stay open, and we want people to be able to fully get back to the pubs, restaurants and theatres. That can’t happen if the virus is out of control.
We’re all frustrated. The important thing to remember is that as scientists we’re also humans and we want to be able to hang out with our friends, celebrate birthdays and go out. It is a hard time, but it can be done. Look around the world – once we get control of the virus we’ll all be better off and it’s good for our livelihoods too.
So if we use the app, does this mean we won’t have to go back into full lockdown for months again?
That’s exactly what we’re trying to do. The more we can stay in well ventilated areas, wear face coverings and wash hands, the less likely we are to end up in full lockdown. You don’t need to look at the national numbers; you can just think if you, your friends and your colleagues use the app, you’ve got an early warning system: here comes the virus.