As thousands of pupils return to school after the extended Halloween break, the Health Minister Robin Swann has urged young people to play their part in the fight against Covid-19 by downloading the StopCOVID NI app.
Almost half a million people in Northern Ireland have now downloaded the app since its launch three months ago. To date, more than 21,000 users have received an exposure notification telling them to self-isolate, including the Health Minister.
At the start of October, the StopCOVID NI app achieved a world first when a new version was launched, making it available to the 11-17 year old age group. With more young people testing positive for Covid-19, the app is a vital tool to help curb the spread of the virus.
The Minister said: “Our health and social care service is there for everyone in our community and right now it’s under tremendous pressure. The hard-working and dedicated staff need us to do everything we can to reduce the numbers of people becoming infected.
“The StopCOVID NI app is part of our fightback and my message to young people is please download the app, use it to help protect yourselves, your friends and your families, specially your grandparents who are more likely to be at risk of serious illness from coronavirus.”
The Minister continued: “I am delighted that so many of our citizens are already using the app. World-beating technology is helping us to keep people safe and defeat this awful virus, and I want young people to help us boost that number even further.”
The new version of the app was developed following extensive focus group work with a diverse range of young people aged 11-17 to help understand their views and concerns, which included questions about safety and privacy.
Dr Eddie O’Neill, Product Manager for the app said: “It was really important to us that we listened to the views of young people in the design process. We held focus groups and tested designs with a diverse range of young people to ensure that we got it right. We also listened to teachers representatives, and sought assistance from colleagues in the Departments of Education and Economy; to ensure that we understood the operational concerns in schools and colleges of further education; ensuring that they could support our plans.”
The app developers also met with the Commissioner for Children & Young People, the Information Commissioner’s Office and representatives from the Children’s Law Centre, in order to ensure appropriate and safe access to the app for younger people, within the legal constraints of GDPR and safeguarding.
It was also announced earlier this week that the StopCOVID NI app has become ‘interoperable’ with the Scottish and Jersey apps. While people are being advised to travel less at the moment, this compatibility will allow those having to travel for essential reasons to continue to be alerted via the StopCOVID NI app while in Scotland or Jersey.