A COVID-19 proximity contact tracing app has now notified more than 10,000 people of positive cases that they have been in close contact with, the First Minister announced today.
The Protect Scotland app, which has been downloaded by 1.5m people in Scotland, has been able to successfully reach those people and advise them to self-isolate, Nicola Sturgeon said in her daily press briefing.
The tech platform has been used as part of the national Test & Protect strategy and complements manual systems, where contact tracers attempt to reach people who have tested positive for the coronavirus by phone.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “That’s important because, in some cases of course, these people would not otherwise have been notified, because they would have been people that the positive case might not have known they would have been in close contact with.”
“And of course in most cases, the notification would have been quicker than through traditional manual contact tracing, because it was done automatically through the app.”
However, the First Minister reminded people who have tested positive for COVID-19 – and who have the app installed on their phones – to make sure they enter the code they get sent by contact tracers into the platform, which enables alert notifications to be sent to those they have been in close proximity with.
She said: “Once you have downloaded the app – if you test positive for COVID, please make sure that you enter the code that you will be given when you test positive.
“That sounds basic, but the evidence we have so far suggests not everybody remembers to do that part. Entering to code is essential in order for people that you’ve been in close contact with to be notified that you have Covid.
“So if everybody not just downloads the app, but remembers to do that crucial bit of entering the code, then the app can make an even bigger difference.”
The app, which was launched last month, has also been improved with people now able to to use it if they travel to Northern Ireland and Jersey, the First Minister added, with interoperability being extended to cover England and Wales from next month.
Scotland has developed its own ‘federated server’ which will ultimately allow for all proximity apps within the UK, Crown Dependencies and Gibraltar to work with each other for the first time.
Those who have downloaded Protect Scotland do not need to do anything for this to work, they simply need to keep the app active while in Northern Ireland and Jersey.
Their phone will be able to connect to the relevant apps in those places and continue to alert users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).
Likewise, if users of Protect Scotland test positive in Scotland, any users of StopCOVID NI or Jersey COVID Alert who have been in close proximity will receive a notification.
Work continues to make the Protect Scotland app interoperable with other contact tracing apps. An agreement has been reached so that the NHS COVID-19 app used in England and Wales and Beat COVID Gibraltar will join Scotland’s federated server in early November.
By developing its own server, Scotland now has the potential to make it easier for other apps elsewhere in Europe and further afield to also work with Protect Scotland.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “The Protect Scotland app is a vital tool in helping suppressing COVID-19 and I welcome that the app now works with the relevant contact tracing apps in Northern Ireland and Jersey. This is an important step in helping further reduce the spread of the virus.
“While people are being advised to travel less at the moment, this compatibility will allow those having to travel for essential reasons to continue to be alerted via the Protect Scotland app if they have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case while in Northern Ireland or Jersey. There will be no need to download the Northern Irish or Jersey app, instead the Protect Scotland app will speak to those apps behind the scenes.
“Agreement has been reached with England and Wales for the NHS Covid-19 app to become compatible in the coming weeks and we are working to ensure Protect Scotland is compatible with other European apps over time.
“More than 1.5 million people have downloaded Protect Scotland since it was launched last month and more than 10,000 people have been contacted via the app to let them know they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This allows people to self-isolate quickly if they have been exposed to the virus, reducing the risk of them infecting others.
“We also know that not everyone uses a smartphone or will be able to or want to access the app, which is why this software is very much there to complement existing contact tracing methods.”