Covid-19 mobile app launched in NI

Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 contact-tracing mobile phone app has become the first in the UK to launch.

It is called Stop Covid NI and is aimed at interrupting the spread of coronavirus by finding those most at risk of catching it.

Should someone receive a positive test for the disease, they will have a unique code texted to the phone.

Once the user gives permissions, the app will release data from the handset to a server so close contacts also using the app can be traced following a “digital handshake” between their devices, Stormont’s health department said.

The intention is to alert close contacts of a patient within a day or two of a positive test.

The software’s use will be voluntary and identifiable information will not be stored to comply with data protection regulations, an official told the health committee of Assembly members.

The operating system is designed by Google and Apple and its use will require Bluetooth to remain on.

The app has already been deployed in the Republic of Ireland and more than 100 people have been warned they have come into close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.

Almost 1.45 million people in Ireland have downloaded it since it went live in recent weeks.

Scotland is at an “advanced stage” in developing a coronavirus proximity tracing app, expected to be available by the autumn, the country’s First Minister has said.

Eight more positive cases of coronavirus have been detected in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said. The total number of people who have been infected is 5,938.

No new deaths were recorded, leaving the total in the region at 556, according to official figures.

The R number for the coronavirus’ reproductive rate is at between 0.5 and 1, the Department of Health said.

It added: “When community transmission of the virus is very low, R will no longer be the most important number for the purpose of policy decisions.

“In particular, once the number of new cases is sufficiently low in the context of a robust testing programme and test/trace/protect strategy, the number of positive tests per day is likely to be a more important parameter.

“R continues to show a high degree of volatility and be heavily influenced by small local clusters, and is therefore not the key indicator for policy decisions.”