Businesses across England and Wales like pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas are being 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.
The move comes ahead of a national launch of the NHS COVID-19 app across England and Wales on Thursday 24 September.
The government will be supporting businesses and venues to display the QR codes, which can be downloaded via a website to display as posters in premises.
Following the launch of the new COVID-19 app, customers and visitors in England will be able to check-in on entry with their phone instead of filling out a check-in book or tool specific to a business. This will allow NHS Test and Trace to contact customers with public health advice should there be a COVID-19 outbreak.
In England, using QR codes will help businesses meet the new legal requirement to record the contact details of customers, visitors and staff on their premises.
With coronavirus cases rising in the UK in the last few weeks it is essential businesses capitalise on the benefits QR codes can bring to protect themselves and their customers.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We need to use every tool at our disposal to control the spread of the virus including cutting-edge technology. 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.
"QR codes provide an easy and simple way to collect contact details to support the NHS Test and Trace system.
"Hospitality businesses can now download posters for their premises ahead of the launch of the NHS COVID-19 app. This will allow the public to seamlessly check-in to venues using the app when it launches.
"It is vital we are using the NHS Test and Trace system to reach as many people as possible to prevent outbreaks and stop this virus in its tracks. This function will make it simple and easy so we can keep this virus under control."
Businesses who are already using their own QR system are being encouraged to switch to the NHS Test and Trace QR code. An alternative check-in method must be maintained to collect the contact details of those who don’t have the app, for example a handwritten register.
When someone enters a venue and scans an official QR poster, the venue information will be logged on the user’s phone. This information will stay on a user’s phone for 21 days and if during that time a coronavirus outbreak is identified at a location, the venue ID in question will be sent to all devices. The device will check if users have been at that location and if the app finds a match, users may get an alert with advice on what to do based on the level of risk.
Managing Director of the NHS COVID-19 app, Simon Thompson, said:
"My team have worked tirelessly to develop the new NHS COVID-19 app and we are incredibly grateful to all residents of the Isle of Wight, London Borough of Newham, NHS Volunteer Responders and the team that went before us; the learnings and insight have made the app what it is today.
"We are now giving businesses the time to prepare their venues ahead of the app becoming available across England and Wales. We are working closely to engage, educate and inform them about how the app works and how they can play their part.
"The QR system is a free, easy and privacy preserving way to check-in customers to venues, and we encourage all businesses to get involved and download and display the official NHS QR code posters."
Businesses are just one sector to be urged to use the NHS Test and Trace system. Universities, hospitals, leisure premises, civic centres and libraries will also be urged to display posters in communal areas such as cafes where people are likely to congregate for more than 15 minutes and in close proximity.
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:
"Companies across England and Wales have been working tirelessly to follow government guidance, keeping workplaces, pubs and shops as safe as they can for staff and customers.
"Business therefore welcomes the introduction of the new COVID-19 app, which will provide an additional layer of armour in the UK’s battle with the pandemic.
"Continued improvements to NHS Test and Trace, while simultaneously increasing testing capacity, are what is needed to build confidence for the public and businesses before a vaccine becomes available.
"Mass adoption of this new system is essential for its efficacy, so the CBI will use its networks to encourage all firms to use the new QR code and remind companies and consumers alike of the importance of compliance."
Businesses should download the QR codes at gov.uk/create-coronavirus-qr-poster.
For more information on the NHS COVID-19 app, visit covid19.nhs.uk.