Those living in England and Wales over the age of 16 are being urged to download the new government contact tracing app to help the floundering track and trace programme.
The app detects whether a user has been within two metres of someone diagnosed with coronavirus for 15 minutes or longer. Should this be the case, the app will instruct users to self-isolate for 14 days.
The app will also alert users if they have visited a venue considered to be an outbreak hotspot.
Matt Hancock told the BBC that with infection rates rising, the app should help to keep people safe. He further commented, "I urge everyone who can to download and use the app to protect themselves and their loved ones".
The app was meant to be released some months ago. However, there were design problems in the early stages of its development, which delayed its final testing. The public was only able to test the app in August.
One of the primary concerns that became apparent to tech experts were those surrounding privacy and transparency. One of the tech experts involved in the initiative said that the development team had worked hard to address these concerns.
Rachel Coldicutt also expressed concerns, telling the BBC, "Not only is the app late to launch, but it will be hindered by the delays in the testing system." She further questioned, "If you don't have symptoms, will a push notification saying you were near someone a week ago make you and your family self-isolate and spend days hitting refresh on the testing website, trying to find a test?"
Her concern stems from a lack of availability for tests considering the high demand for them. The app also allows users to book and order coronavirus tests at the touch of a button. The government remains confident, however, that the app will not compromise their steps taken to meet the growing demand of the tests.
The app is accessible on the Google Play Store for Android users and the App Store for Apple users. Users can only install the app onto their smartphones if they have Android 6.0 or iOS 13.5 installed on their devices.
Should an alert be triggered, the app will send a notification to the users, instructing them to self-isolate for 14 days, as per the government’s guidelines. If the user has been near someone with COVID-19 or visited a venue considered an outbreak hotspot, the app will send this notification. The user is urged to follow these instructions regardless of whether they are showing symptoms.
Those who supply symptoms to the app’s symptom checker will be advised to self-isolate for eight days and book a coronavirus test.
Users are encouraged to look at the app, as it includes threat updates based on one’s postcode.
The download rate is still showing that most people are not willing to get the app. One in 10 people installed the app at a trial in the London Borough of Newham, and one in five people in Scotland installed the app after its launch two weeks ago. In Ireland, the app was released in July, yet only one in three people is using it.