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UK contact tracing app may warn you about areas with high infection rates

The NHS hopes a load of new features will spur adoption.

Close up color image depicting a young caucasian man in his 30s wearing a white protective face mask - to protect himself from flu viruses and the coronavirus - sitting and waiting on a bench at a railroad station in the city of London. He is wearing casual clothing, a green rainmack and messenger bag. In the background other people are defocused.
coldsnowstorm via Getty Images
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|June 28, 2020 8:17 PM

The UK might have a simple way to spur adoption of its long-in-development contact tracing app: load it with features that are useful beyond exposure warnings. A Financial Times source claims that the NHS’ innovation wing is developing a number of additions, most notably a “Geiger counter” map that would warn you about areas with high infection rates. You’d know to steer clear of a badly-hit neighborhood, for instance.

More features would include building barcodes, to let workplaces know if an infected person visited, and a countdown timer for people asked to self-isolate.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson didn’t comment on the specific details. Instead, they reiterated the goal of supporting the NHS Test and Trace service.

The extras would come alongside a possible new “PPE in your pocket” marketing scheme, and would underscore the challenges the UK faces. Widescale adoption of the contact tracing app may be important to preventing infection spikes that lead to further lockdowns, but there’s no guarantee a wary public will download it. Singapore has considered smart bracelets after struggling to recruit users for its app — the UK might not fare much better if residents see few immediate benefits.

UK contact tracing app may warn you about areas with high infection rates