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Image credit: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Apple, Google reportedly team with UK's NHS on COVID-19 tracing app (updated)

It could play an important role in ending lockdowns.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
April 12, 2020
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POLAND - 2020/04/10: In this photo illustration a COVID- 19 sample is seen displayed on a smartphone with the United Kingdom flag on the background. (Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Apple and Google have said they’re working together on COVID-19 contact tracing, and that might just include collaboration with specific healthcare providers. The Times sources claim the two tech companies are working with the UK’s National Health Service on an app to trace people who’ve come close to those infected with the new coronavirus. Like the companies have publicly discussed, it would use Bluetooth to alert you about possible contact and urge you to get tested.

Ministers ordered the creation of the app, according to the tipsters. Combined with much wider testing, the feature would be key to lifting some of the strictest lockdown measures in late May.

We’ve asked Apple and Google for comment.

A collaboration like this wouldn’t be surprising. Effective phone-based contact tracing requires both widespread use and collaboration with health authorities. However, the report could shed light on how that strategy will work in some countries — you may be asked (if not required) to install a government app instead of downloading a third-party title or switching on a system-level feature.

Update 4/12 2:30PM ET: Health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed work on a contact tracing app, and that a pre-release version will be tested at a location in northern England next week. You can send a ‘yellow alert’ if you’ve self-diagnosed with COVID-19 symptoms and others pass by for extended periods, while people who’ve been tested as positive for the disease will send a ‘red alert’ urging people to go into self-isolation. You’d receive a verification code alongside your positive test result to make sure people couldn’t send false warnings.

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