After being criticised for the disappointing performance of its COVID-19 contact-tracing app, the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) postponed its release. Initial tests reportedly show that had minimal problems with Android smartphones, but the bulk of the issues were associated with iPhones and the restrictive nature of iOS. After months of delay, the platform is reportedly ready for public release with some additional features.

One, in particular, is the use of QR codes to make it easier for users and businesses to register and track their recent whereabouts. As indicated by British healthcare authorities, the app will primarily function as intended. It should alert users if they have been in close proximity to individuals who might be infected by the 2019 novel coronavirus. The BBC reports that it will initially launch for people located in England and Wales on Sept. 24.

Along with its upcoming release, businesses that normally see folks gather for more than 15 minutes will be asked to put up QR code posters designated by the government. The list includes hospitals civic centres, libraries, leisure premises, and restaurants among others. Although the app eliminates the need for unnecessary exposure from manually writing down their contact information, establishments will still be required to have it available for those who do not have smartphones with them.

"We need to use every tool at our disposal to control the spread of the virus including cutting-edge technology," said U.K. health secretary Matt Hancock. "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." After scanning the QR code using the NHS COVID-19, the user will then be prompted to allow automatic log-ins at that particular location.

NHS workers struggling with stress
In spite of the public support in the UK, NHS workers are struggling with the strain. Photo: AFP / ISABEL INFANTES

A confirmation screen will then show that the check-in was logged. The app will automatically check-out once another NHS QR code has been scanned or it automatically does so after midnight. According to the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) there are approximately 3,200 new COVID-19 cases daily recorded for the first week of September. Places that have their own QR codes will be encouraged to use the one provided by the NHS.