On September 24th the NHS COVID-19 app launched in England and Wales, as part of the NHS Test and Trace service and NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service.
Since then we’ve had a lot of users of our COVID Symptom Study app asking us whether they should carry on logging daily they also have the NHS COVID-19 app.
The answer is yes! We need as many people as possible to download and use the COVID Symptom Study app daily as we head into the winter. The COVID Symptom Study app is a global public science project supported by the UK government and crowd-funding, with more than 4.2 million participants providing vital health data to help researchers and the NHS understand and beat COVID-19.
The NHS COVID-19 app supports the government’s efforts to control the spread of the virus through testing and contact tracing.
Please note, the NHS COVID-19 app is only available in England and Wales, there are different apps in Scotland and Northern Irelands. In Scotland there is a separate contact tracing app called Test and Protect app and in Northern Ireland there is the StopCOVID NI app.
COVID Symptom Study app and NHS COVID-19 app compared
COVID Symptom Study app
- Large-scale scientific project to understand and map COVID-19, providing estimated national and local COVID-19 cases based on algorithmic prediction
- Asks users to log daily health updates and records a wide range of symptoms
- Triggers an invitation to book a test if people report symptoms (including but not limited to the classic three) that might be caused by COVID-19
- Does not use your phone’s Bluetooth, GPS, location or contacts and does NOT track you as you move around
- Does not have QR code check-in
- Users can log on behalf of family and friends, including children and the elderly
- Supported by the UK government and delivered by ZOE, with research led by King’s College London
NHS COVID-19 app
- Part of the NHS Test and Trace service and NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service
- Basic symptom checker asking about key Coronavirus symptoms including; fever, cough and loss of smell/taste to determine if eligible for a test
- Allows eligible people (based on the three classic symptoms) to book a test through the NHS
- Uses Bluetooth to alert users who may have been in contact with another user who has tested positive
- Notifies users if they’ve been in 'close contact' with someone who then tests positive for coronavirus. The alert will not identify the individual in any way. A scientific calculation, using an "algorithm", has been developed by scientists to work out which app users are 'close contacts'.
- Allows users to check in to venues using a QR code
- Keeps track of users self-isolation countdown and gives access to relevant advice
- Users must be over 16 and cannot use the app on behalf of others\Supported by the UK government and delivered by the NHS
Let’s take a closer look.
About the COVID Symptom Study app
The COVID Symptom Study app is a large-scale scientific research project. More than 4 million users are using the app to regularly log their health and report any new symptoms, making it the largest public science project of its kind anywhere in the world.
Data from the COVID Symptom Study app is enabling researchers to monitor the spread of COVID-19 across the UK based on user postcodes, identifying hotspots sooner than any other method. It has also provided powerful insights into the disease and its symptoms, helping to identify who is most at risk.
The COVID Symptom Study is the largest data set in the world supporting scientific investigation of “long COVID”, and is supporting trials of vaccines and medicines for the disease. We are also using the app to investigate other scientific questions, such as the role of diet, vitamins and lifestyle in COVID-19.
The COVID Symptom Study app also provides daily updates on the estimated number of COVID-19 cases in the UK and your local area. These are calculated in two ways: firstly, the number and percentage of new positive swab tests - we now have results on over a million tests; and secondly by using our computer algorithm, which can predict whether someone is likely to have COVID-19 based on their symptoms.
In addition to the three ‘classic symptoms’, the COVID Symptom Study app monitors other potentially important signs of COVID-19. This includes headache, fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, confusion or skin rash, which may be especially relevant in the older population as well as children.
If people report any symptoms that might be COVID-19, the COVID Symptom Study app triggers an invitation to book a test for the virus. Although we do ask users to input the results of any COVID-19 tests they have had, which are then used to inform scientific research, the COVID Symptom Study app is not directly connected to the NHS Test and Trace service.
The COVID Symptom Study app does not have any contact tracing or QR check-in facilities. It cannot access your phone’s Bluetooth, GPS, location data or contacts, does not track you as you move around, and can’t tell if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
About the NHS COVID-19 app
The NHS COVID-19 app contains several tools aimed at controlling the spread of the disease.
Firstly, the NHS COVID-19 app has a simple symptom checker, allowing users to report if they are experiencing any of the three ‘classic’ symptoms of COVID-19: fever, cough, and loss of smell or taste. Users reporting any of the three key symptoms are invited to book a coronavirus test through the NHS Test and Trace website. If they test positive, they will be given advice on next steps and guidance on self-isolation timelines.
The NHS COVID-19 app uses Apple/ Google API exposure notification system which allows an app to measure the distance and duration between two devices, alerting users if someone they have been in close contact with later tests positive for the virus using random unique IDs. If any of those users later test positive for coronavirus, other app users they may have been in contact with will then receive an anonymised exposure alert with advice on what to do next.
Users are also able to use the NHS COVID-19 app to check in to venues such as bars and restaurants using a QR code and can use this to keep a record of where they’ve been.
Use both apps to help us all get through the pandemic
We need as many people as possible to keep using the COVID Symptom Study app to monitor their health on a daily basis and contribute to vital research into the pandemic. You can also log on behalf of family and friends who aren’t able to use the app, including children and the elderly.
If you are in Scotland or Northern Ireland, the same is true. We need as many of you as possible to be using your countries contact tracing app (Test and Protect in Scotland and StopCOVID NI in Northern Ireland) and our app to fight this pandemic.
We need everyone to play their part to help us all get through this. We urge you to download and use both apps to help us get through COVID-19 over the months ahead.