THE new NHS Test and Trace app has finally launched after months of delays – but it doesn’t work on older iPhones.
Thousands of Brits have been left unable to access contact tracing service – which ministers hope could help snuff out Covid-19.
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The contact tracing app went live across England and Wales today – following months of delays.
But furious Brits have taken to social media to complain that they have been unable to download the app on their iPhones.
The error message says that iOS 13.5 or later is required – an operating system that can only be used on the iPhone 6S or newer.
It means that handsets which are more than five years old – of which there are 10 in total – are not compatible with the new app.
The software was trialled on the Isle of Wight earlier this year and ran on the same operating system, meaning the flaw would have been likely been brought to light months ago.
It comes as the Health Secretary Matt Hancock today urged Brits to get the app – telling the public the more people who download it “the better”, adding it was good “for your community”.
The iPhones which can’t download new NHS Test & Trace app
iPhone 6 Plus
He told BBC Breakfast: “The more people who download this app, the more effective it will be.”
Mr Hancock said the “vast majority” of people had the right software, adding that some may need to upgrade their phone’s operating system.
He said: “We are at a tipping point in our efforts to control the spread of this virus.
“With infection rates rising we must use every tool at our disposal to prevent transmission, including the latest technology.
“We have worked extensively with tech companies, international partners, and privacy and medical experts – and learned from the trials – to develop an app that is secure, simple to use and will help keep our country safe.
“Today’s launch marks an important step forward in our fight against this invisible killer and I urge everyone who can to download and use the app to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
The app works by using Bluetooth to alert people if they have been near an infected individual and tell them to self-isolate.
A report in The Times today suggests that Bluetooth can be interfered with by nearby objects – meaning one in three people told to self-isolate could have been given a “false positive”.
But Mr Hancock denied this, saying: “No, nobody who gets an alert saying they should self-isolate will have not been in close contact with someone else who has the app.
He did say however that people could be asked multiple times to self-isolate by the new NHS tracing app – although he confirmed it would not be a legal requirement.
How new NHS Test & Trace app works
With England and Wales’s coronavirus contact tracing app rolling out, here we explain how to get hold of it and how to use it…
1. Download the app
Users can download the NHS Covid-19 app from Apple’s App Store on iOS or Google’s Play Store for Android devices.
Search ‘NHS Covid-19’.
Users will be met with details about what the app does and a privacy notice first.
The app will then ask for permission to use Bluetooth to carry out automatic contact tracing, as well as the ability to receive notifications, should someone you have been near report symptoms or have a positive test returned.
Prompts will appear on-screen asking people to allow the app to access these features.
Next, you will need to provide the first part of your postcode, which is used to show the risk level in your local area.
The main screen will pulse green to show that the app is active.
Along the top you can see the risk level in your local area.
Below there are a series of options to choose from, including venue check-in and report symptoms.
– Venue check-in
This lets people scan a QR code rather than manually providing contact tracing details.
Elsewhere, users can tap ‘About’ at the top of the main screen to see a list of the places they have checked in. There is also the option to delete all data here.
– Report symptoms
Here people can tap the symptoms they have and indicate when these started appearing.
It will then advise you to isolate and a countdown will commence based on the date provided.
A button at the bottom directs people to the Government website where they can then book a test. The results will be sent in the usual way via email or text message, but also within the app.
After doing this, the green pulsing on the home screen of the app will change to red and show you how many days of isolation you have left.
Speaking to Times Radio, he said: “If the app tells you to self-isolate, then you should self-isolate. But if an NHS Test and Trace contact tracer tells you, then you must by law.”
Asked whether that was complicated to understand, he said: “Not really, it is really straightforward.”
Pushed on whether people could be told to self-isolate more than once by the app, Mr Hancock said: “If you didn’t have symptoms first time round then you’re just as susceptible to getting infected, so unfortunately yes, you have to.”
Scientists claim just 15 per cent uptake could “meaningfully reduce the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and death”.
But with Brits now threatened with fines if they do not stick to the rules, officials fear many will be reluctant to download it.
It comes at a critical time for the UK, with confirmed cases of Covid-19 on the rise daily.
The latest version of the app has been in testing among residents on the Isle of Wight and in the London borough of Newham since mid-August, after the first was marred by technical issues and eventually scrapped.
Though the Bluetooth-reliant technology was initially described as the “best possible way to help the NHS” by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in May, results from other countries already using apps have been mixed.
The app uses an Apple and Google-developed system, using Bluetooth to keep an anonymous log of people a user has been close to.
It does this by exchanging randomised keys while the Bluetooth signal strength measures proximity.
If someone falls ill, they can tell the app, which will then ping their keys to a central server and in turn send them off to all app users in search of a match.
Should the system determine a person as a close contact, they will be automatically sent a notification and issued with further guidance.
A QR code scanning feature is available, allowing people to check-in to venues they visit and easily share their contact details for human tracing efforts.
Professor Christophe Fraser, scientific adviser to the Test and Trace Programme, said: “Our Oxford University research team analysis has shown the potential to meaningfully reduce the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths across the population from as little as 15 per cent of the whole population downloading the app and following the guidance to self-isolate.
“This means each one of us can make a difference to help stop the spread of infection, save lives and help protect our loved ones.”