September 24, 2020

NHS COVID-19 App Launches Across England And Wales with mobile industry support

  • NHS COVID-19 app launches nationwide to helpstop COVID-19 transmission alongside national and local contact tracing
  • Features of contact tracing app include risk alerts based onpostcode district, QR check-in at venues, symptom checker and test booking
  • Businesses required to display the official NHS QR codeposters from today so people can check-in at different premises with the app

People across England and Wales are being urged to download the NHS COVID-19 app to help stop the spread of coronavirus and protect themselves and their loved ones as case numbers rise.

The app launches today, and after positive trials and rigorous testing is effective in reducing transmission when used alongside traditional contact tracing.

It will be available to those aged 16 and over in multiple languages. It forms a central part of the NHS Test and Trace service in England and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme - identifying contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Today the UK’s major mobile network operators, including Vodafone, Three, EE and O2, Sky and Virgin, have confirmed that all in-app activity will not come out of customers’ data allowance.

The app works by logging the amount of time you spend near other app users, and the distance between you, so it can alert you if someone you have been close to later tests positive for COVID-19 – even if you don’t know each other. 

The app will  advise you to self-isolate if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable you to check symptoms, book a free test if needed and get your test results. 

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“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.
“There is no silver bullet when it comes to stopping the spread of coronavirus, but today’s launch marks an important step forward in our fight against this invisible killer and I urge everyone who can to download and use the app to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

From today [Thursday 24 September] businesses are required by law to display NHS QR code posters which are compatible with the app so customers with the app can use it to check-in to venues. So far more than 90,000 businesses have already downloaded QR codes. Venues in Wales that are legally required to collect and keep a record of visitors will still need to do so.

The NHS Test and Trace team behind the app has worked closely with major tech companies, including Google and Apple, scientists within the Alan Turing Institute and Oxford University, Zuhlke Engineering, medical experts, privacy groups, at-risk communities and teams in countries across the world using similar apps – such as Germany, to develop an app that is safe, simple and secure. 

The app has been through successful trials in the Isle of Wight, Newham and among NHS Volunteer Responders and lessons learned have informed the final version that is launching today.

Dido Harding, Executive Chair of the NHS Test and Trace Programme,said:

We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to engage with NHS Test and Trace. The NHS COVID-19 app enables the majority of people with a smartphone to find out if they are at risk of having caught the virus, order a test, and access the right guidance and advice.
“This app works alongside our traditional contact tracing service and will help us to reach more people quickly in their communities to prevent further spread of the virus. 
“This is a welcome step in protecting those around us andreturning to life as normal.”

The app has been designed with user privacy in mind, so it tracks the virus, not people and uses the latest in data security technology to protect privacy. The system generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth These unique random IDs regenerate frequently to add an extra layer of security and preserve anonymity. 

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

Simon Thompson, Managing Director of the NHS COVID-19 App, said:

“We have worked tirelessly to develop the new NHS COVID-19 app and we are incredibly grateful to all residents of the Isle of Wight, London Borough of Newham, and NHS Volunteer Responders, the learnings and insight have made the app what it is today. We are now ready to roll-out the app across England and Wales.
“This new version is so much more than just a contact tracing app – it has a range of features which will quickly alert you if you’re at risk of coronavirus. The more people who use it, the better it works. 
“We are confident that every person who downloads the app will behelping to protect themselves and their loved ones.’

Hamish MacLeod, Director at Mobile UK, said:

“The mobile industry welcomes the opportunity to support the Government’s efforts to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic by zero-rating access to the new NHS COVID-19 app. Customers can be reassured that all in-app activity will not come out of their data allowance.” 

Vodafone CEO Nick Jeffrey said:

“An effective tracing app will be an essential tool in the UK’s fight against COVID-19, so I’m pleased we’ve been able to ensure that using the in-app tracing, reporting and check-in functions won’t affect our customers’ data allowances.”

Three CEO Robert Finnegan said:

“The mobile industry has played a significant role in keeping people connected to work, their loved ones and importantly, vital public services throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Three is happy to continue their support by zero-rating any in-app data usage for the NHS-COVID application, meaning using it won’t count towards our customers’ allowances, enabling everyone to get involved. “

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division, said:

"As part of our ongoing efforts to support customers and the NHS, we will be zero-rating all in-app activity for the new NHS COVID-19 app across EE, BT Mobile and Plusnet Mobile."

Mark Evans, CEO of Telefonica UK, said:

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, O2 has delivered and supported digital solutions to support businesses, communities and individuals.  The NHS COVID-19 app is a new weapon in the fight against coronavirus and O2 is pleased to be working with the Government to maximise its impact.”

Notes to editor

For more information on the NHS COVID-19 app, visit

When someone reports symptoms through the app, it will detect any other app users that the person has been in close contact with over the past few days, including unknown contacts such as someone they may have sat next to on public transport. The app will be able to anonymously alert these contacts and provide advice, including how to get a test if they have symptoms.

The mobile industry has committed to supporting the new app with the major operators Vodafone, Three, EE and O2 (including giffgaff and Tesco Mobile ), Sky and Virgin, 'zero-rating' data charges for all in-app activity. This means customers will not be charged for data when using the in-app functions, or if they are directed out of the app to information on websites.  If a customer is directed to other web pages outside of the app, this may use data from their allowance.

  1. Customers will need data in order to download the Test and Trace app initially, this cannot be zero-rated.               
  2. In-app activity has been zero-rated by mobile operators. From the app, customers may be directed to websites, which have also been zero rated.      However, if a user is passed from the app to websites on, data charges will apply.
  3. O2 and Three UK have zero-rated the subdomain for registering a COVID-19 test here
  4. There is a full list of compatible devices here

Those who may not have access to the app, or the ability to use a smartphone should continue to use traditional contact tracing services provided by NHS Test and Trace or, NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect.

For more information on how businesses can prepare for NHS COVID-19 app please see:

About Building Mobile Britain

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Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.

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