NHS contact-tracing app could be ready in ‘two weeks’

An NHS contact-tracing app could be ready in a fortnight as developers race to keep ahead of plans to ease lockdown.

The app, which will use to let people know if they have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, could “be technically ready in two to three weeks”, according to Matthew Gould, the chief executive of NHSX.

It comes after NHSX, the health service’s research arm, rejected a model put forward by US technology giants Google and Apple, despite concerns raised about privacy and performance. 

Mr Gould claimed waiting for such an app developed by the tech firms “would slow us down considerably”.

“We are, I hope, on course to have the app ready for when it will be needed,” he said, “for the moment the country needs the tools to come out of lockdown safely.”

The app will work by using a smartphone’s Bluetooth technology to keep an anonymous record of other smartphone users that come into close proximity with.

The user will then have the option to send data to the app if they begin to show signs of having contracting coronavirus which will then send a notification to others who have been in close contact with the phone user.

However, unlike the “decentralised” system proposed by Apple and Google, the app will use a “centralised model” in which the matching process happens on a computer server rather than on the phone itself. 

The NHS says this will allow it to gain more insight into the spread of coronavirus across the country. 

However, there remain concerns that hackers or authorities could misuse the data to track the movement of individuals. 

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