Why we all need to download the track and trace app and ‘play our part’

A screenshot of the coronavirus contact tracing app which is launching across England and Wales in w

A screenshot of the coronavirus contact tracing app which is launching across England and Wales in what the Health Secretary has called "an important step forward" in our fight against the "invisible killer". PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday September 24, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus App. Photo credit should read: Jamie Harris/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The long-awaited NHS coronavirus tracing app for England and Wales has launched and residents in Suffolk are being urged to download it and play their part in the battle against coronavirus.

The voluntary app, which comes after months of delay, uses Bluetooth to keep an anonymous log of people who a user has been close to – and sends alerts to those who have been in close contact with those who have tested positive for the virus.

A QR code scanning feature is also available, which will allow people to check in to venues they visit.

Some 160,000 businesses have already downloaded QR codes for use in their facilities for track and trace or queuing purposes.

Scotland and Northern Ireland already have their own individual contact tracing apps.

West Suffolk MP and health secretary Matt Hancock said the app’s launch comes “at a tipping point in our efforts to control the spread of this virus”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “The more people who download this app, the more effective it will be.”

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Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, added people should not rely on the app alone to stay safe.

Mr Hulme said: “It is so important that we all personally do everything we can to stem the tide of Covid-19 and reduce the rate of infection – the new NHS Covid-19 app will help us all to do that.

“However, with case numbers rising we cannot rely on the app alone. It is the action we all take now we have it that will help us to beat the virus.

“I would urge everyone in the communities we serve to download the app and also stick with existing safety measures – please wash your hands regularly, wear face masks or face coverings and stay two metres apart, especially indoors.”

The app requires Apple users to be running iOS 13.5, rolled out earlier this year, while Android users need to be running version 6.0 Marshmallow – released in 2015.

The UK’s major network operators have pledged to “zero-rate” data charges incurred by all in-app activity, meaning they will not be charged for using it.

Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “With Covid-19 cases rising nationally, we all need to play our part to reduce the spread of the virus. One way we can all help is to register with the NHS Covid-19 app and isolate at home if alerted that we have come into contact with somebody who has tested positive.

“The app will work alongside existing national and local contact tracing to help us know where the virus is spreading, and stop others from being infected.

“By sticking with the guidance to wash our hands regularly, wear a face covering where necessary and make space for those around us, we can continue to protect each other and keep our friends and families safe.”