BPF urges UK Covid-19 app uptake, as bloc wrangles with data

The British Property Federation (BPF) has urged businesses across the UK to 'lead the charge' for the NHS Covid-19 app launched last week in England and Wales.

The app will enable QR check-in at venues, and will in theory be used by contact tracers to reach multiple people when coronavirus outbreaks are identified.

Melanie Leech, chief executive, British Property Federation commented: 'The property industry creates and manages the physical fabric of our towns and cities, and since the start of lockdown has been working tirelessly to keep places and buildings safe and secure.

'The BPF’s members, the developers and managers of the sorts of places where people meet and socialise, including shopping centres and office buildings, are committed to supporting the roll-out of the NHS Covid-19 app.

'We, however, urge all property businesses to join us in this commitment – as stewards of places and buildings across the UK, our industry is well-placed to drive momentum behind the uptake of this app. The app’s effectiveness will depend on businesses and people embedding its use in their daily lives, particularly at locations where people meet.

'This is our opportunity to support the NHS in gaining systematic control over the spread of Covid-19.'

Technological limitations
Over one million people are reported to have downloaded the UK app on its first day of use, although its application has not been without teething problems.

Users have reported receiving alerts that they have been in contact with Covid-positive individuals, without receiving further guidelines or information about quarantining or reporting to authorities.

The technology represents the UK government's second attempt at a Covid app after abandoning version 1.0 in June when it blamed issues with Apple devices.

Across Europe, track and trace apps to date have had limited success. One of the most successful apps is considered to be Iceland's, with an estimated 40% adoption rate and a high download rate amongst tourists. Uniquely across the continent, the app can use GPS to track the movement of individuals in the case of infection, which is not permitted by other apps across the bloc.

Apps in Switzerland and Italy have also had reasonably high take-up, at around 25% and 14% of potential users respectively, with at least 20% of the Danish population also downloading its app. German and Irish users have been reasonably compliant although download rates have remained in the low teens.

However, app take-up has been described as a failure in France, Spain, Portugal and Norway, with the latter country deactivating it altogether over clashes with the Norwegian Data Protection Authority.

Future vaccine
While the efficacy of Covid-tracing apps has perhaps been limited by their non-mandatory nature, the idea of digital health 'passports' is still being mooted at an institutional level.

Whether documenting adherence to a future Covid vaccine, or a clean bill of health, authorities and business leaders are wondering if their use could greenlight the free movement of tourists and business travellers as the pandemic advances, or effectively become a second passport for international travel one day.


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