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28 April 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

NHS contact tracing app should be ready for nationwide rollout within three weeks, project lead says

By Samuel Horti

An NHS contact tracing app that is central to the government’s plan to track the spread of the virus in the coming months should be ready for nationwide rollout within three weeks, the head of the NHS’s technology group has said.

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, told the Science and Technology Committee of MPs that the app would be trialled in a “small area” in “the next couple of weeks”.

When asked when it would be ready for wider rollout, he said that “subject to it performing in the trials, and the smaller area in the way we expect, I would expect it technically to be ready for a wider deployment in two to three weeks”.

He warned that it would be “tough” to get 80 per cent of smartphone users to install it. “The message needs to be: if you want to keep your family and yourselves safe, if you want to protect the NHS and stop it being overwhelmed and at the same time we want get the country back and get the economy moving, the app is going to be an essential part of the strategy for doing that.”

Professor Christopher Fraser, senior group leader in pathogen dynamics at University of Oxford Big Data Institute, said that if 60 per cent of people downloaded the app, it would be enough to contain the spread of the virus. 

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