Coronavirus: Scotland developing its own contact-tracing app

Google app from Apple

Scotland is developing its own coronavirus contact tracking app, which it hopes to be ready for use in the fall.

This is followed by the failure of an NHS-branded app in England, which has been tried on the Isle of Wight.

On Thursday, Northern Ireland became the first part of the UK to deploy a contact tracking app.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland have decided to adapt the software already used in the Republic of Ireland.

Contact tracking apps are designed to help prevent a second wave of coronaviruses.

They work by registering when two people have been close to each other for a substantial period of time.

If one of the users is subsequently diagnosed with the disease, an alert can be sent to others they have recently been close to, telling them that they should also be tested and / or self-isolated.

In May, Apple and Google updated their mobile phone operating systems to include a contact tracking framework.

It performs the process on the phones themselves, making it more difficult for authorities or potentially hackers to de-anonymize the logs and use them for other means.

However, it means that even governments and epidemiologists cannot centrally access the data to analyze it.

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Media captionWATCH: What is the contact track and how does it work?

Initially, England opted to design a centralized contact tracking app, despite the fact that the Apple-Google framework is widely supported by European countries.

In June, after a trial on the Isle of Wight that highlighted major shortcomings, England said it would switch to the Apple-Google model.

Since Scotland is adapting the Republic of Ireland app, which uses the Apple-Google framework, it will also be compatible with the apps used Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the existing manual contact track will continue to be used in conjunction with the app.

“We also know that not everyone uses a mobile phone or will be able to access the app, which is why this software is very much there to integrate existing contact tracking methods,” he said.

The Scottish app will be developed by Nearform, who worked on the Republic of Ireland contact tracking app.

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