The NHS Covid-19 app which told people to self-isolate if they had been in close contact to someone with a Covid case will shut down on Thursday 27 April. According to research published in Nature, the app averted around 1 million cases in its first year – which corresponds to around 44,000 hospital cases and 9,600 deaths.
Zühlke helped development of the app in just 12 weeks with the technology quickly becoming a digital mainstay of the pandemic-gripped UK. The Switzerland-headquartered tech consultancy and engineering company found ways to use Bluetooth capabilities of phones to monitor Covid contacts.
The app has been downloaded around 30 million times, but its use decreased as restrictions lifted. In February 2022, the UK government announced the end of legal requirements to self-isolate following a positive test and, in March 2023, announced the closure of the app.
“The number of people actively using the NHS COVID-19 app has steadily reduced since July 2021. Since access to government-funded testing ended for most people, fewer positive test results have been entered in the app and, as a result, fewer notifications have been sent to close contacts,” said GOV.UK in a statement.
The research, led by Michelle Kendall at the University of Warwick, is important epidemiological evidence that supports the government’s decision, amidst fears of data privacy, to encourage downloads of the app.
“Despite the short development period, the app achieved a number of technological innovations to protect privacy while ensuring the maximum accuracy and usability,” said Zühlke CEO Wolfgang Emmerich.
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The NHS Covid-19 app was a key regulatory driver in transforming health management onto mobile devices. Sentiment has continued beyond the pandemic as the public increasingly seek accessible ways to digitally manage health; the mobile medical app market is predicted to reach $12.1bn by 2030.