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NHS Plan to Trace Coronavirus with Digital App

With the ongoing health pandemic that is coronavirus, the UK has been told to self-isolate, leading to the lockdown the UK has been experiencing in the last few weeks.

As our daily lives continue to be heavily affected by the health crisis, digital and technology have played a huge role in the attempt to conduct day-to-day work duties; including video conferring as a substitute for meetings.

The National Health Service has been recognised and widely praised for their heroic efforts in tackling the virus. As a large population of the UK is following orders to self-isolate, there are still a small minority who are struggling to come to terms with it. The NHS have been in talks to develop an application that will help identify those carrying the coronavirus and advise them to self-isolate. The app is being developed by NHSX, the largest digital health and social care transformation programme in the world.

In order for the app to work effectively, around 60% of the population will need to sign up and interact with the app by registering their symptoms or test results which read positive. Once the application has processed this information; the individuals will be given strong advice to self-isolate. This includes in cases where they were not aware of having been in contact with someone infected.

Although this application could be effective in tackling the virus down the line, it has raised some privacy concerns; as it would contain an unprecedented amount of surveillance.

According to a new analysis by scientists at the University of Oxford, “digital herd protection” is likely to be crucial in order to lift current restrictions without seeing a huge resurgence of infections.

“We see it as the only alternative to applying isolation to the whole population,” said Professor David Bonsall, senior researcher at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Medicine and a clinician, who co-led the project. “We think it’s going to be a very important part of that strategy.” The Oxford team developed an algorithm for the app.

“That’s where this concept of herd protection came from,” said Bonsall. “You can protect the vulnerable people in society who may not have smartphones, and protect children. If enough adults across the population engage with the system and trust the system telling them they should isolate, you’re protecting all those individuals who don’t have a device.”

That is a valid point which will protect those who are vulnerable, which has been the main message throughout this process. The app would not need to access location data, but could log users’ proximity to each other through Bluetooth.

The NHSX are increasingly confident that the app which is being developed will be a success in defeating the coronavirus, with input from experts.


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