Jersey launches contact-tracing app

Irish software developer NearForm adds Channel Island to its list of customers for mobile proximity app technology

After the Isle of Wight played a key role in testing the UK contact-tracing app, 175km to the southwest, Jersey has now introduced a smartphone app designed to alert users when they have been near another app user who has recently discovered that they have Covid-19.

Available immediately for islanders to download, the Jersey Covid Alert app is the result of a partnership between the government of Jersey, Digital Jersey – a government-backed economic development agency and industry association dedicated to the growth of the island’s digital sector – and Irish technology developer NearForm.

The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BTE) and API technology from Google and Apple to enable mobile phones with the app to recognise when they are near other phones also running the app and then securely and anonymously alert users who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 and also has the app downloaded on their phone.

Close proximity is defined as within two metres for 15 minutes or more to a positive case of coronavirus. The app is anonymous and only retains necessary data for a 14-day period. Any information subsequently passed on to the contact-tracing team when users contact them may be held in line with local public health law.

The Jersey Covid Alert app will work alongside the island’s current contact-tracing system to create another level of protection against community seeding of the virus. When an alert comes through to someone, they will be advised to talk with the contact-tracing team to get advice specific to their situation. 

The app is available only to those with up-to-date smartphones, both Android and Apple. Islanders who do not use smartphones are advised to follow the other public health measures in place and will continue to be supported by the contact-tracing team and helpline.

Julian Blazeby, director general for justice and home affairs in Jersey, stressed that the app will not replace any other measures currently in place. It is an additional service that aims to support the work of the local contact-tracing team, he said. It has been evidenced that as little as a 15% take-up within Jersey’s population would have an impact on the virus’ ability to spread within the community, he added.

“The government’s strategy to delay, contain and shield aims to protect islanders, avoid imposing harsh restrictions on the entire community and to sustain relatively normal routines,” said Blazeby. “If we can continue to work to be safer together, by adhering to public health measures and now signing up for this app, we have a stronger chance to protect those who are vulnerable to Covid on our island.”

NearForm CEO Cian Ó Maidín added: “The Jersey Covid Alert app is built with privacy at its core to empower citizens to protect each other and break transmission chains. Using open source, peer-reviewed technology, the people of Jersey have a world-class tool which has already been successfully rolled out in Ireland, Scotland and several US states, including New York and New Jersey.

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