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NHS tests COVID-19 contact-tracing app that may actually work properly – EU neighbors lent a helping hand

Not just Germany stepping up to the plate – Ireland, too, we're told

NHS England has released its second go at a contact-tracing app to help limit the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus infections, thanks in part to some help from the neighbors.

Limited trials of the smartphone app have begun on the Isle of Wight and in the London Borough of Newham, roughly two months after the first version of the software flamed out due to its failure to reliably keep track of the people you've been near, which is somewhat of an oversight for a program that's supposed to warn you if you've been close to someone who tests positive.

In order to prevent a recurrence of the first app fiasco, it is understood that the UK government this time tapped up the Apple-Google decentralized API to reliably and efficiently perform the wireless contact tracing, which works on Android and iOS.

And Brit officials looked abroad for help. We know that back in July, Germany confirmed it was lending its expertise to the NHSX as its coders crafted their new app, though apparently they weren't the only ones involved.

The Register has learned that the programmers who developed Ireland's COVID-19 contact-tracing app helped out in the development of the revamped NHS application. We are told that the Ireland team advised their British counterparts though no code was exchanged.

woman binoculars photo via Shutterstock

Germany prepares to launch COVID-19 contact-tracing app 'this week' while UK version stuck in development hell


The end result, the NHS hopes, will be a contact-tracing app that not only performs the contact-tracing functions the old one failed to do, but adds a few new additional bells and whistles as well.

The new app, among other things, advises you on the level of risk of catching the virus in your area, and can scan QR codes placed on buildings to automatically check-in at those locations, and thus log visits to specific businesses, stores, and other places.

The app also will let you book a COVID-19 test if you're feeling under the weather and your symptoms match those caused by the bio-nasty. We understand that those you've been in contact with are only alerted if you tests positive, not if you report having symptoms.

For some reason, though, the Irish team was left out of the government's acknowledgements in its official press release.

"England’s NHS Test and Trace programme has worked closely with major tech companies, including Google and Apple, scientists within the Alan Turing Institute, medical experts, privacy groups, at-risk communities and teams in countries across the world such as Germany using similar apps, to develop a state-of-the-art app that is safe, simple and secure," the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Nice of them to acknowledge the Germans, at least. And Google. And Apple. ®

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