Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has described smartphone apps for tracing the spread of coronavirus as the “best possible way to help the NHS” as a pilot programme begins in England.
The NHSX app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight this week as part of the Government’s test, track and trace strategy and will be central to its efforts in slowing the spread of coronavirus.
Contact tracing has been used extensively in South Korea, Hong Kong and Germany, where outbreaks have been contained more quickly.
Here, the PA news agency looks at how other countries have been using mobile technology in the fight against Covid-19:
The COVIDSafe app speeds up contacting people potentially exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19).
This helps health officials support and protect you, your friends and family.
— Australian Government (@ausgov) May 1, 2020
Australia released COVIDSafe last Sunday evening and more than four million people have started using the app.
Use of the app is voluntary, but the government said 40% of Australians, or 10 million people, need to use it for the program to be a success.
Speaking ahead of the weekend, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said more people downloading the app would speed up the reopening of pubs, adding: “If that isn’t an incentive for Australians to download COVIDSafe on a Friday, I don’t know what is.”
– New Zealand
Across the Tasman Sea and New Zealand is also planning an app to help with contact tracing, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would have to be part of a number of measures.
She told reporters: “We are working on it but I have to say our big focus has been getting our in-person contact tracing right, because we will all still be relying on that.”
Developers of the TraceTogether app estimate around one in five people in the city state have downloaded the app, the first Bluetooth contact tracing app in the world.
Half of the 1.1 million downloads of the app came in the first 24 hours.
— GovTech (Singapore) (@GovTechSG) March 31, 2020
The Aarogya Setu app uses both GPS location and Bluetooth to track users and has been downloaded 50 million times. It is voluntary for Indian citizens, but the government made it mandatory for all of its employees to download the app and use it last week.
More people in India use feature phones than smartphones, presenting the government with a significant problem in its fight against Covid-19.
China’s app gives users a colour based on a traffic light system – green for clear, red for a coronavirus contact – and it is reportedly needed to move about as widespread restrictions are lifted.
– South Korea
South Korea sits apart from others on the list as it has not used an app-based solution to trace potential contacts. Instead, authorities have tracked people using a number of sources including mobile device tracking and financial transaction information to alert potential contacts.
The Czech Republic has released an app similar to the one from Singapore, while North Macedonia’s StopKorona! app uses Bluetooth. Smittestopp in Norway uses both GPS and Bluetooth, while apps are also in development in Italy, Austria and Germany.