Retailers urged to prepare for NHS COVID-19 app

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In this photo illustration the official NHS Covid-19 "Test and Trace" contact tracing app is seen on a screen on August 13, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Retail businesses across England and Wales have been urged to download QR codes to prepare for public roll-out of new COVID-19 contact tracing app.

While the stress is on businesses like pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas, any business “with a physical location that is open to the public” is required to create and display a QR code.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new app would help NHS Test and Trace, the scheme used in England to contact those who have been in contact with a COVID-infected person, to reach more people.

“The launch of the app later this month across England and Wales is a defining moment and will aid our ability to contain the virus at a critical time,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Previous attempts to develop more sophisticated tracing apps have struggled to expand beyond the pilot stage, and the government has faced criticism after missing launch deadlines.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has banned groups of more than six people from meeting from today (14 September) as the government tries to keep the spread of the virus under control amid a sharp rise in cases in recent days.

The new app will be officially launched on 24 September, and available for pubs, restaurants, cinemas, hairdressers and other venues and their customers to download.

People visiting a venue will check-in by scanning a QR code displayed at the entrance on their mobile phone which can in turn be used by NHS Test and Trace to contact them to tell them to self-isolate in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The use of QR codes will replace the current system whereby people have to manually fill in their contact details when they enter a venue.

Businesses have been urged to ensure they have NHS QR code posters visible on entry so customers who have downloaded the new NHS COVID-19 app can use their smartphones to easily check-in.

Retailers with multiple premises need to create a separate QR code for each location. The QR codes can be downloaded via a website to display as posters in premises.

Scotland has also launched its own Protect Scotland app which is now available to download for free via Apple and Google stores. Northern Ireland has launched its StopCOVID app on August 6.