Use the new NHS app to help keep Oxford safe, urges City Council

Published: Thursday, 24th September 2020

People in Oxford are being encouraged to download the new NHS covid-19 contact-tracing app to help keep the spread of coronavirus down in the city.

The new app, which launched across England and Wales today, lets users know if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

How it works

People using the app will be able to check in to places like bars, restaurants, hairdressers and cultural venues by scanning a QR code as they enter. If anyone who was checked in at the same time later tests positive the app can alert all those who were close by at the venue, so they know they are at risk.

The app doesn’t access any personal data on your phone, but asks for the first part of your postcode to help track local outbreaks. It uses randomly generated codes to ‘talk’ to other phones running the app, when a user tests positive the app will message other phones that have been close by to let them know. By using the first part of your post code, which covers approximately 8,000 people, the app can help identify local outbreaks, meaning local responses can quickly prevent further spread.

How businesses use it

Businesses like restaurants have been taking customers’ contact details and storing them in case they are notified of a positive case. The new app lets them display a QR code and uniquely link it to their business, so they don’t need to store details from customers that use the app. Although businesses will still take details for those not using the app, it will reduce the burden on staff and make contact tracing quicker and more efficient when needed.

Tracing and isolating people who have been exposed to the virus is one of the key ways to reduce the spread. The new app automates the contact tracing, and the existing track and trace system will continue to operate as well. For people without the app, venues will still need to take contact details so they can be traced.

Spreading the word about the app

The City Council is working with businesses and communities to promote the use of QR codes and the app.

For users of the app the council has been working through the Locality Response Hubs, set up to coordinate volunteers and council staff to deliver food and medicine, to share information about how the app works and how to download it. Information is available in other languages, including Arabic, Bengali, Polish and Urdu, and the locality hubs are working with these communities to make sure they have access to the information.

For businesses, the council’s business regulation team has been working with businesses to make sure they understand their legal obligations and are ready to comply. It will be compulsory for certain businesses, including hospitality and hairdressers, to display a QR code that app users can scan. The business regulation team will be checking that businesses are displaying their QR code, and helping businesses understand how to use it where they are not

“This app will make a big difference to how quickly and effectively people at risk can be traced. I encourage everyone in Oxford to use it, the more people in the city that use it the better protected Oxford is from an outbreak getting out of control.

“Using the app is the first step, getting a test if you have symptoms is the second, and self-isolating if needed is the third step. If we all do these three things we can really make a difference to the spread of this disease in Oxford.”

“We are going to be living with this virus in circulation for a long time. We all want to get back to doing normal everyday things, but to keep everyone safe we have got to be able to find and isolate infected individuals as quickly as possible. This app will help our NHS do that.”

Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Safer, Healthier Oxford

“As a local GP I want to encourage everyone in Oxfordshire to use this app. Contact tracing will make a real difference to how quickly people can isolate so they don’t pass the virus on. It's frightening how unwell some people can become with this virus so we need to take the risk seriously. By using this app you can help reduce the spread in the county, so please download it and use it whenever you go to a place with the QR code.”

Dr Kiren Collison, Clinical Chair at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group