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This must-read post about the NHS Track & Trace app has gone viral

Catriona Harvey-Jenner
·5-min read
Photo credit: Dan Kitwood - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dan Kitwood - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

This time last year, the words 'track' and 'trace' would have meant little more to you than something a train rides on, and a technique you used in art class at primary school. But 2020 has changed everything, and now we're more than familiar with what 'track and trace' means.

The government recently announced the launch of the official NHS COVID-19 app, which aims to slow the spread of the virus across the UK using technology to enable sophisticated contact-tracing. The idea is, if your phone detects that you have been in close proximity with someone who later goes on to test positive for coronavirus, you will be instructed to self-isolate for 14 days. As of today, the government will fine anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, or has been told they have been in contact with someone who has, and then refuses to self-isolate. Fines can be up to £10,000.

Although, according to the latest government figures, the app has been downloaded more than 10 million times across the country, and has been used for more than 1.5 million venue check-ins since it launched, there has been some criticism of it.

Photo credit: Gareth Copley - Getty Images
Photo credit: Gareth Copley - Getty Images

On Saturday, it was revealed that thousands of COVID tests that had been carried out in an NHS setting were unable to be input into the app, while tests carried out privately were fine. Plus, there has been plenty of talk about possible data risks that may come with being 'tracked' for the purposes of suppressing the virus.

But a Facebook post written by David Bonsall, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford whose specialist department has been advising on the UK’s track and trace strategy, has gone viral. And it's easy to see why, considering it clears up a lot of the big questions and concerns people are having about the app.

So if you're currently unsure about whether you should download the NHS COVID-19 app, have a read of Bonsall's post and see how you feel at the end of it.

Explaining that he had spoken on the likes of the BBC, ITV, Sky News, LBC and more about the intricacies of the app, David Bonsall wrote: "I thought I’d answer a few frequently asked questions more directly, while our communications officer isn’t watching."

What follows are some of the most frequent questions he's come up against, and his answers in response:

Is it going to steal my data?

"No its completely private. All your data stays on the phone, if you delete the app, you delete the data. Facebook, on the other hand..."

Is it going to track me?

"No it doesn’t know where you are. Uber, Dominos pizza, google maps, on the other hand..."

Why has it taken so long?

"It was hard. We tested it, made it better, tested it again, made it better, now it’s ready. And we helped Google develop their system. And we beat most states in America"

How many people need to download it to work?

"Two. If you download it and I download it and I get infected and I notify you and you don’t visit your gran, Granny lives"

What happens if we all download it?

"Maths shows it could stop the epidemic."

Why did the Isle of Wight app not work?

"Actually it did. It looks like it stopped their epidemic. There were problems with iPhones."

Are there not still problems with iPhones?

"Yes. The few people with iPhones earlier than 6S should write to Apple and complain. If you have a later version you should download the app, stop the epidemic, and save the old folks with outdated smartphones."

What about the fines for not following the notifications? Those aren’t fair!

"What about the local outbreak and deaths you could cause by not following them? Also what about the £500 you receive if you get notified and can’t work from home?"

So is it more accurate than manual contact tracing?

"Yes probably. And it can notify people you don’t know. It’s a lot more private - you don’t need to give personal details about you or anyone else. It uses computers so it’s fast enough to find people BEFORE they infect others...which is sort of the point"

Its not a silver bullet is it? It’s just a cherry on the cake?

"No. If we all download it, it’s A GOLD-PLATED MISSILE, which relatively speaking cost one-thousandth of a cherries worth of cake, compared to another lockdown.

Is it going to work?

"Not unless you download it.....give it a go. It’s really rather good."

And one final addition from the app team, in response to the test-logging catastrophe:

"Everyone who receives a positive test result can now log their result on the NHS COVID19 app. A minority of people, such as hospital patients, who were unable to log their positive result will now be able to request a code when contacted by NHS Test and Trace to input on the app."

So there you have it. Does it make you want to download it?

Follow Cat on Instagram.

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