Even those with no or mild symptoms are urged to fill in a short survey to increase the volume of information available
The NHS is asking citizens to use its newly launched Coronavirus Status Checker to help it build a comprehensive data set about the disease, including information on symptoms and the spread of the infection.
The online survey poses a range of questions to respondents, including how many people live in their home, and whether they or others are still travelling to work, as well as their age and postcode. It then goes on to ask about symptoms, other health conditions, and whether or not they have been tested for coronavirus.
All citizens of the UK are invited to participate in the survey but, at the moment, “the NHS is particularly keen for anyone who thinks they may be displaying potential coronavirus symptoms, no matter how mild, to complete it”.
Users can fill it out themselves or on behalf of someone else.
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“The information gathered will help the NHS to plan its response to the outbreak, indicating when and where more resources like oxygen, ventilators and additional staff might be needed and will provide valuable insight into the development and progression of the virus across the country,” the health service added.
Information provided via the tool “will only be used by the NHS and trusted organisations working directly with the NHS in response to coronavirus… and will not be retained any longer than is strictly necessary” once the current crisis is over.
Although the NHS said that, while individuals will not be identifiable from the information they provide, the tool “will cross-reference data from other sources to ensure it avoids counting people twice”.
In addition to the data gathered via the survey, various external apps and websites that are collecting similar information “have agreed to work openly with the NHS and align their products and data as part of this central, national effort”.
The service is being jointly run by NHS England, NHS Digital, NHSX, and Public Health England, acting under the direction of health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.
“Technology and data are playing a vital role in battling coronavirus and supporting our heroic NHS frontline workers to save lives, protect the vulnerable, and relive pressure on the NHS,” he said. “We must learn as much as possible about this virus, and we are asking the whole nation to join this effort. If anyone has experienced symptoms of COVID-19, I would urge you to use our new status checker app to help us to collect essential information on the virus and allow us to better allocate NHS resources where they are needed most.”
The tool is being hosted by the NHS website, with links to it provided via the coronavirus homepage, and the dedicated 111 online service providing advice on the disease. The health service said that its website makes it clear to users that the status checker should not be considered an online triage tool or a source of medical advice.