The NHS COVID-19 app ('the app') has been released and the UK Government has produced corresponding guidance for leaders and staff in schools and further education colleges in England.
The app aims to complement the NHS Test and Trace in England by automating some aspects of the process of contact tracing. The app is available to download for anyone aged 16 and over, and Bluetooth needs to be enabled on the app users' phone. The app is not mandatory however schools are being encouraged to recommend that staff download and use the app, it they think this would be beneficial.
The app has 6 key features:
- Trace - alerts the app user if they were in close contact with a confirmed case
- Alert - provides the app user with the risk level associated with COVID-19 in their local area, based on the postcode district they enter
- Check in - allows the app user to check in to locations via the app and official NHS QR codes
- Symptoms - allows the app user to check symptoms against government guidance and to get advice
- Test - allows the app user to order a free test and to receive results and advice via the app
- Isolate - provides isolation 'companion', which counts down how many days they have left to isolate and provides links to useful advice
If an app user tests positive for COVID-19, the app will ask them to allow those that they have been in close contact with to be alerted. If they agree, the app will anonymously alert the individuals who have been in close contact with the positive case. 'Close contact' generally means being within 2 metres of someone for 15 minutes or more.
It may be necessary to pause the 'trace' function in the app so that contacts are not recorded. This is recommended in situations when an app user is not able to have their phone with them, for example because it is stored in a locker, or during physical education. Students should be advised when to 'pause' the app to avoid misidentifying close contacts.
Key points to note for school leaders:
- The guidance relating to managing a positive case/and or an outbreak is still in place and is not changed by the introduction of the app.
- Use of the app does not replace the requirement to social distance or to report positive cases to the school.
- Students should be advised to inform a member of staff it they receive a 'trace' notification that they have been in contact with a positive case during the school day - the staff member should then put in place the school's agreed process, including making arrangements for the student to leave the school to begin self-isolation.
- If a staff member receives a 'trace' notification, they should also follow the usual process of informing the appropriate person at the school before self-isolating.
- You may want to consider changing your school's mobile phone policy if this does not currently allow mobile phones on site, or requires mobile phones to be switched off during the day or to be left in lockers (although this is not mandatory).
- Communication with staff about use of the app will be key to ensure it supports the school's current processes for dealing with positive cases.
For more information contact Ruth Rule-Mullen in our Education department
via email or phone on 01772 220195.
Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.