It may be weeks since you’ve used the NHS Covid-19 app, but as lockdown eases and we become reacquainted with the Test and Trace system, it’ll work a little differently.
Now, when you visit pubs, restaurants, gyms, hairdressers and other venues, every individual in a group must check in, either by scanning the official NHS QR code poster with the NHS COVID-19 app, or by providing their contact details.
This is the biggest change to the app that will impact customers, as previously only one member of the group needed to provide contact details. That person was then asked to inform any other group members if they received a notification to self-isolate.
Other changes to the app, which is part of the NHS Test and Trace service, include:
Venue history sharing – if an app user tests positive, they will be asked to share their venue history privately via the app. This will allow venue alerts to be generated more quickly, the government said, and improve the ability to identify where outbreaks are occurring and take steps to prevent the virus spreading.
Additional venue alerts – if a person has been at a venue on the same day as several other people who have since tested positive for Covid-19, they may receive an alert, advising them to book a test immediately, whether they are showing symptoms or not. This is to help identify asymptomatic cases who may have caught the virus but are not displaying symptoms.
New QR code posters – All venues in England are now legally required to display an official NHS QR code poster, which has been made clearer and easier to use, the government says.
The changes come after repeated criticism of the Test and Trace system and its shortfalls, including the revelation that thousands who came into contact with the virus in the autumn were not told to self-isolate, due to a software error.
Other research has shown just 18% of people with Covid symptoms use the Test and Trace system, while questions have been raised about the huge bill of outsourcing the programme to private firms.
The app changes coincide with a new campaign to encourage all adults over the age of 18 in England to carry out twice-weekly Covid-19 rapid testing as of Friday April 9.
As further restrictions lift from Monday April 12, and non-essential retail and hospitality begins to open, all adults will be eligible to request free rapid Covid-19 tests online, and from participating pharmacies and local testing centres (as well as workplaces, where available).
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