A new mobile phone app could be central to ending the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.

The Government has ordered NHSX, the health service’s technology arm, to create an app which would trace those who have been in contact with infected people and alert them to get tested.

Google and Apple have been helping the NHS to develop the system at “breakneck speed”, the Sunday Times reports.

The app would use Bluetooth to tell its users if they have been near someone who has tested positive for the deadly bug, helping to bring any new chains of infection under control.

If combined with a huge expansion in testing, minister hope this will make it possible to start lifting social distancing measures as soon as next month and hold the key to ending the UK’s current state of lockdown, according to reports.

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“We believe this could be important in helping the country return to normality,” a Whitehall source told the paper.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously committed to ramping up levels of testing for Covid-19 to 100,000 a day by the end of the month.

And Downing Street has repeatedly refused to say if it is already using people’s phone data to track transport movements during the pandemic – saying only it complies with data protection rules.

Among measures being considered to encourage take-up of the app are making it a condition of returning to work and normal home life.

Experts say around 60% of people would need to adopt the “track and trace” concept for it to effectively bring the pandemic under control.

One downloaded, the technology would use Bluetooth to record the distance between your mobile phone and any devices nearby which are also using it.

This “anonymous proximity information” would then be stored, and if a user goes on to develop coronavirus symptoms they can tell the app to trigger an alert system.

This would send a message to all users an infected person has been in close contact with over the previous few days, as well as informing the NHS.

It is understood that app data would not be made available to police to enforce lockdown rules, as it is believed this would deter people from using it.

It follows an announcement by Google and Apple on Friday, in which the tech giants said they were also working on an app which will allow health services to use their data to identify those at risk of Covid-19.

A government source told the Sunday Times that the Department for Health is taking privacy issues relating to the app “incredibly seriously” and has been consulting both patients and data ethics experts.

It comes as the UK’s coronavirus death toll rose by 917 in just 24 hours yesterday, with an 11-year-old child among those to lose their lives.

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Coronavirus outbreak

The tragic figure was announced by the Department for Health and Social Care, with the overall number of deaths now reaching 9,875.

It has also been reported that Boris Johnson came close to losing his fight with Covid-19 after being admitted to intensive care on Monday night.

The Prime Minister, who is now said to be making “very good progress” as he continues his recovery, thanked doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital in London for “saving his life”.