People across England and Wales are being encouraged to download the new National Health Service (NHS) COVID-19 app to help control the spread of the coronavirus as case numbers rise.

According to reports, the new app features tools to support contact tracing via Bluetooth, risk alerts based on postcode district, QR check-in at venues, symptom checking and test booking.

The app will advise people to self-isolate if they have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable people to check symptoms, book a COVID-19 test and receive test results.

User privacy and data security have reportedly been a key priority throughout the development of the app.

As a safeguard to protect individual users’ right to privacy, the system generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth (not GPS).

According to reports, these unique random IDs regenerate regularly to add an extra layer of security and preserve users’ anonymity.

The app does not hold personal information such as a person’s name, address or date of birth, and only requires the first half of a postcode to ensure local outbreaks can be managed.

Furthermore, no personal data is shared with the government or the NHS.

Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, says the launch of the app marks an important step forward in the fight against the coronavirus.

“We are at a tipping point in our efforts to control the spread of this virus. With infection rates rising we must use every tool at our disposal to prevent transmission, including the latest technology.

We have worked extensively with tech companies, international partners, and privacy and medical experts – and learned from the trials – to develop an app that is secure, simple to use and will help keep our country safe.”

According to the World Health Organisation’s latest statistics, the UK has had more than 446,000 confirmed coronavirus infections, with more than 42,000 deaths reported.

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