Northern Ireland launches Covid track and trace app

A view of the newly launched Stop Covid NI contact, track and trace app displayed on a smart phone in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Northern Ireland has launched its contract-tracing smartphone app in a bid to control the spread of Covid-19.

It is the first part of the UK to successfully launch a track and trace app.

Within hours of its release, the StopCOVID NI Proximity App had been downloaded hundreds of times.

‘This could be the most important thing you do all year,’ said Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann. ‘It could prevent you from spreading the virus to people you care about.’

The app is available on both Android and iOS phones and is entirely voluntary. It will require a phone’s Bluetooth setting to remain on – as this is how it communicates with other phones – but officials stress it complies with data protection regulations.

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The UK’s first tracing app, officially launched today is also the first in the world to work in unison with similar apps in other countries. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

‘There will be some people who won’t be able to or won’t want to use the app, and that’s okay,’ said Dan West, the chief digital information officer at the NI Department of Health.

How does it work?

The app uses Bluetooth to connect with other devices also running the app (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

If a person has received a positive Covid-19 test result, they will then be sent a unique code via text message.

This code can be entered into the app which then triggers a ‘Bluetooth handshake’ to allow the app to notify any other user who has been nearby for long enough to potentially catch Covid-19 themselves.

The app will recommend those people self-isolate in case they have contracted the disease. Those contacted won’t know the identity of the person who may have passed on coronavirus.

How to spot a Track and Trace scam

Since the coronavirus outbreak, many have warned against scammers trying to exploit the opportunity.

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More recently scam artists pretending to be NHS contact tracers for the Test and Trace system were reported to have been demanding £500 for Covid-19 test kits and results.

There are detailed steps to help spot a scam, but the main things to remember are who is contacting you and what details they’re asking for.

As per the advice on the official page, the only way you will be contacted legitimately is by:

  • A phone call from 0300 013 5000
  • Text messages from ‘NHS’

Legitimate contact tracers will ask:

  • for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, and postcode to offer support while self-isolating
  • if you are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms

Contact tracers will never:

  • ask you to dial a premium rate number (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
  • ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product of any kind
  • ask for any details about your bank account
  • ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
  • ask you for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone
  • disclose any of your personal or medical information to your contacts
  • provide medical advice on the treatment of any potential coronavirus symptoms
  • ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else
  • ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS


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