UK contact tracing apps

All UK contact tracing apps are now compatible, working across borders.

The UK has separate coronavirus apps for each of England & Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. All three are built using the joint Apple/Google API, and two of them are based on the same core source code which has been made open-source to facilitate easier interoperability between apps …

The Scottish and Northern Irish apps achieved this goal last week, so bringing the English/Welsh one into the mix completes the UK’s cross-border solution.

The same code is also used in four US states – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware – so that they too are interoperable across state borders.

All but the England & Wales apps were all created by developer NearForm, which says that interoperability will be key to making it possible to end the current (inconsistent) strict lockdowns across the UK.

As we head towards the holiday period and people plan ahead to exit lockdown, interoperability will be an important addition to reopening safely and will allow app users to anonymously alert their close contacts if they have travelled to these regions.

“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 across borders is possible. For those who must travel, interoperability provides a key additional level of protection for both themselves and others. The app’s close contact alerts break transmission chains by dramatically reducing the time taken for users to self-isolate and seek further advice, preventing further spread of the virus.” NearForm CEO Cian Ó Maidín said on today’s announcement.

The Scottish government said that no user action is required.

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 [travelling].

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 the English and Welsh NHS COVID-19 app or the Beat COVID Gibraltar app who have been in close proximity will receive a notification.

Apple and Google created a more sophisticated model for assessing risk, which has allowed alert thresholds to be adjusted, meaning more people are likely to be notified. Extending the protection across borders will further boost notification levels.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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