A new coronavirus contact tracing app has gone live in Scotland.
The ‘Protect Scotland’ proximity app to help fight the spread of Covid-19 is available for free download onto a smart phone from the Apple app store or Google Play.
The software is designed to let people know if they have been in close proximity to someone who has the virus and will support the existing ‘Test and Protect’ system.
Using bluetooth technology, the app will alert users if they have been in prolonged close contact with a positive case even if they don’t know each other.
The First Minister has urged Scots to download the app, saying it is a “new way to help fight Covid”.
Experts believe that take-up of a proximity app has to be in the region of 60% of the population to be effective.
The ‘Protect Scotland’ app does not store details on an individual or their location but uses encrypted, anonymised codes exchanged between smartphones to determine all close contacts.
Close contacts are defined as people who have been within two metres of someone who has tested positive for 15 minutes.
Designed by software developers NearForm for NHS Scotland, it uses the same technology as the Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish proximity tracing apps.
Nicola Sturgeon said: “The launch of the app is a welcome development which will offer an additional level of protection – supporting NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system as it works to drive down the spread of Covid-19 across the country.
“I would encourage everyone to download the free app if they have a compatible smartphone, and help slow the spread of Covid-19.
“This will support the work of NHS Scotland and has the potential to help avoid local lockdowns.
“The more people who download and use the app, the more effective it can be in helping to make connections that may otherwise have been missed.
“This will allow people to self-isolate quickly if they are exposed to the virus, reducing the risk of them infecting others.
The First Minister added: “We all have a part to play in suppressing the virus, and downloading the app – alongside other vital measures such as following hygiene and physical distancing guidance – will help protect you, your family and your community.
“We also know that not everyone uses a smartphone or will be able to or want to access the app, which is why this software is very much there to complement existing contact tracing methods.”
Under ‘Test and Protect’, people who test positive for coronavirus receive a call from contact tracers who ask them for all their recent close contacts.
From now on, they will also be asked if they use the app, and if so, if they are willing to use an upload function on the app to anonymously alert close contacts.
This information would then form part of an anonymous database of positive cases in Scotland.
An alert is automatically issued to anyone who is found to have been in close contact with a positive case in the database, with those users then urged to get tested or self-isolate for 14 days.