This is when the NHS track and trace app will launch - and when you can download it

Anyone who is contacted will be told to stay at home (Photo: Shutterstock)
Anyone who is contacted will be told to stay at home (Photo: Shutterstock)
Anyone who is contacted will be told to stay at home (Photo: Shutterstock)

The new NHS Test and Trace scheme has been launched in England.

Thousands of contact tracers are now starting to make their first phone calls to people deemed at risk of coronavirus infection, with anyone who is contacted to be told to stay at home.

But what about the track and trace app?

When will the NHS app launch?

Despite the NHS Test and Trace system rolling out in England on Thursday (28 May), the accompanying app is still facing delays of several weeks.

The app began trials on the Isle of Wight on 5 May and the government hopes the system will be ready to be used more widely across England in June, although an official date on when it will be available has not yet been confirmed.

If the Isle of Wight trial proves successful, it is expected to be available to the wider public in England in June, but it was not ready to launch at the same time as the Test and Trace system.

How will the app work?

Smartphone users will be able to download the app and opt-in to record their symptoms if they start to feel unwell.

A warning alert is then sent to others who they have been in close contact with, and also have the app, via Bluetooth signals.

If a person is then confirmed to have tested positive for coronavirus, an alert will be sent to other app users that they have been in close contact with in the last 28 days.

The app will then recommend those people self-isolate in case they have contracted the virus, and the identity of the person who may have passed on the virus will be kept anonymous.

If a person then takes a test and tests negative, they may be released from their self-isolation by a notification through the app.

Currently, the app either tells users: “You’re OK now”, or “You need to isolate yourself and stay at home”.

Essentially, the app aims to identify exactly who needs to self-isolate and who doesn’t, thereby making it easier to lift social distancing measures.

How can I download it?

When the app is made available in England, it will be available to download from Apple or Google app stores.

Users then need to enable it to use the Bluetooth feature on their smartphone.

How does the NHS Test and Trace system work without the app?

The NHS Test and Trace system is currently operating without the app, and aims to track people who are considered to be at risk of coronavirus infection.

Under the new system, NHS tracers, or local public health teams, will text, email or call people who test positive with coronavirus and ask them to share details of those they have been in close contact with, along with places they have visited.

These contacts will then be considered to be at risk of infection and be instructed to self-isolate at home for 14 days as a result, even if they are not displaying any symptoms.

Anyone who has already had the virus will also be asked to self-isolate.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that people will not receive penalties for failing to abide by the guidelines “in the first instance”, but it could possibly be made mandatory for people to stay at home in the future.

A test and trace system also launched in Scotland on 28 May, which comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a number of changes to lockdown restrictions.