A new version of the ‘StopCOVID NI’ app, inclusive of under 18s, has been welcomed by Education Minister Peter Weir.
The Department of Health app, which is available for download now, alerts close contacts of other users who have tested positive for the virus thus slowing the virus spread.
Although not intended exclusively for use in schools, Minister Weir has encouraged pupils and schools in its uptake.
In a letter sent to school principals, he called on schools to support the use of the app whilst acknowledging that successful uptake may require changes to schools’ existing mobile phone policies.
Minister Weir said: “I am keen to encourage uptake of the app amongst our young people in the 11-17 age group.
”I appreciate there may be a need for schools to review their mobile device policy to allow use of the app so have written to school leaders seeking their cooperation.
“I support the view that the policy remains that mobile devices should not be used for other purposes in schools other than use of the ‘StopCOVID NI’ app.”
The app was originally launched in July 2020 as an age 18+ app pending clarification on the legal position with regards to under 18s.
The Department of Health has worked with the Children’s Commissioner, the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the Children’s Law Centre to ensure that younger people can access a version with age-appropriate design, and compliance with GDPR.
The Department of Health undertook extensive work with under 18s in the design and development phase, to ensure that the app reflected their views.
Notes to editors:
1. The Northern Ireland ‘StopCOVID NI’ free smartphone app helps to speed up the process of identifying people at risk of catching the virus, and slow down its spread. It uses the Google and Apple software interface to access Bluetooth, and anonymously record close contacts with other app users with nearby phones.
2. If a user has a positive test for COVID and enters this on the app, all other users’ phones can then check to see if they have been in close contact with the person who has tested positive. Their app then runs a probability check to determine whether there is any risk to the user, and if relevant provides advice to self-isolate.
3. The app was originally launched in July 2020 as an age 18+ app pending clarification on the legal position with regards to under 18s. Having consulted with the Children’s Commissioner, Information Commissioner and Children’s Law Centre, the Department of Health now has a legal basis to extend use of the app to 11-17 age group.
4. Guidance on the use of the app in educational settings will be published on the DE website shortly.
6. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office at Press.Office@education-ni.gov.uk.
7. The Executive Information Service operates an out-of-hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.