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Covid-19 tracing app launches in Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland has launched the UK’s first track and trace app, which is designed to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The StopCOVID NI Proximity App is available on both the Apple Store and Google Play and works by emitting anonymised coded 'keys' or 'Identifier Beacons', which change every 15 minutes.

The UK government was developing its own app, which was originally supposed to rollout in England by June. However, the app was ineffective at tracking iPhone users and work was restarted using a new method developed by Apple and Google that the NI app is based upon.

The app has been designed to assist in stopping the spread of Covid-19 by anonymously contacting people who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

It will notify any app users that have been closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes in the previous 14 days.

It does not link to a contact-tracing service directly at present, although manual contact-tracing will still be carried out in parallel. The government was keen to stress that no data will be passed on to Apple or Google.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Deploying this world-leading technology can prove a major factor in helping our efforts to curb Covid-19 and prevent its spread.

“Its potential to be a game changer will, however, be totally dependent on the support of the Northern Ireland public.”

The app has already been deployed in the Republic of Ireland and more than 100 people have been warned they have come into close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.

Almost 1.45 million people in Ireland have downloaded it since it went live in recent weeks from a total population of nearly five million.

Scotland is at an “advanced stage” in developing a coronavirus proximity-tracing app, expected to be available by the autumn, the country’s First Minister has said.

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