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Boris Johnson tells UN leaders ‘climate action cannot be another victim of coronavirus’ 

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boris johnson tells un leaders climate action cannot be another victim of coronavirus

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged UN leaders not to let climate action become ‘another victim of coronavirus‘ at a roundtable event.

Johnson called on nations to make ambitious commitments to secure the planet for the next generation at the event hosted by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Appearing over video link at 11:50 BST on Thursday, he said world leaders should ‘look ahead to how we will rebuild’ after the pandemic and ‘build back better’.

He declared that the UK would ‘lead by example’ in keeping the environment on the global agenda and become a launchpad for the ‘global green industrial revolution’. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged UN leaders not to let climate action become 'another victim of coronavirus' at a roundtable event

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged UN leaders not to let climate action become ‘another victim of coronavirus’ at a roundtable event

The virtual UN Climate Action Roundtable, running throughout the day on Thursday September 24, formed part of the preparations for the COP26 global climate summit set to be held in Glasgow next November.  

The goal of COP26 will be to get nations to agree to deeper cuts in carbon emissions and tougher targets if the aim of keeping the global temperatures from rising by no more than 2.7F above pre-industrial levels is to be achieved.  

Tougher targets will be needed to meet that goal as a recent UN report found we may hit global temperatures of above 2.7F at least once in the next four years. 

Johnson also announced a joint UK and UN event on December 12 to mark the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises. 

The Paris Agreement anniversary event will kick off a year of action in the run up to the global climate summit COP26 in November 2021, the government confirmed. 

As part of the Paris Agreement, countries agreed to set their own targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to limit the potential damage to the climate.  

Every five years world leaders are expected to announce new, more ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and how they will hit ‘net zero emissions’ by 2050 – the agreed target for limiting the worst affects of climate change.

This is where greenhouse gas emissions are either not produced or offset by planting trees or other methods of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.  

Appearing over video link, the prime minister is expected to to say world leaders should 'look ahead to how we will rebuild' after the pandemic and 'build back better'

Appearing over video link, the prime minister is expected to to say world leaders should ‘look ahead to how we will rebuild’ after the pandemic and ‘build back better’

The prime minister called on world leaders to announce genuinely transformational net zero targets and bold climate finance pledges at the December event.

‘No one country can turn the tide – it would be akin to bailing out a liner with a single bucket,’ Johnson told the world leaders at the UN event.  

‘Let us be the leaders who secure the very health of the planet for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.’ 

The COP26 was due to be held in Glasgow this November inline with the five year anniversary of the Paris Agreement but was postponed due to coronavirus.

It will now be held in 2021 and is expected to be the most important round of climate talks since 2015 when the Paris Agreement was reached. 

THE PARIS AGREEMENT: A GLOBAL ACCORD TO LIMIT TEMPERATURE RISES THROUGH CARBON EMISSION REDUCTION TARGETS

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

It seems the more ambitious goal of restricting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research which claims 25 per cent of the world could see a significant increase in drier conditions.

In June 2017, President Trump announced his intention for the US, the second largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, to withdraw from the agreement.  

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals with regards to reducing emissions:

1)  A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels

2) To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change

3) Goverments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries

4) To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science

Source: European Commission 

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Scientists reveal how octopuses can ‘taste’ things by touching them

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scientists reveal how octopuses can taste things by touching them

Scientists have revealed how octopuses can ‘taste’ things by simply touching them with the suction cups on their tentacles. 

Sensors in the first layer of cells inside the suction cups have adapted to react and detect molecules that don’t dissolve well in water, US researchers claim. 

These sensors, called ‘chemotactile receptors’, use these molecules to help the animal figure out what it is touching and whether that object is prey. 

The chemotactile receptors send signals on to the creature’s nervous system to help the octopus smother prey or keep going in its hunt for food. 

Some marine invertebrates that octopuses prey on produce chemicals known as terpenoids, which as a defence or warning signal.

By detecting these signals with their tentacles and their chemotactile receptors, octopuses can also avoid toxic prey.  

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Researchers have new evidence as to how the sensory ability of the octopus's eight tentacles works. Few studies had looked into how the suction cups do this on a molecular level

Researchers have new evidence as to how the sensory ability of the octopus's eight tentacles works. Few studies had looked into how the suction cups do this on a molecular level

Researchers have new evidence as to how the sensory ability of the octopus’s eight tentacles works. Few studies had looked into how the suction cups do this on a molecular level

The eight suction-cup covered tentacles are essential for an octopus when foraging, but few studies had looked into how the suction cups do this on a molecular level. 

It turns out the molecules in the water and their aquatic ‘taste’ are also key to the hunting process. 

‘We think because the molecules do not solubilize well, they could, for instance, be found on the surface of octopuses’ prey and whatever the animals touch,’ said study author Nicholas Bellono at Harvard University. 

‘So, when the octopus touches a rock versus a crab, now its arm knows, “OK, I’m touching a crab because I know there’s not only touch but there’s also this sort of taste”.

‘We think that this is important because it could facilitate complexity in what the octopus senses and also how it can process a range of signals using its semi-autonomous arm nervous system to produce complex behaviors.’

Close-up of an octopus's suction cups that line its eight tentacles. The scientists identified a novel family of sensors in the first layer of cells inside the suction cups that have adapted to react and detect molecules that don't dissolve well in water. These sensors, called chemotactile receptors, use these molecules to help the animal figure out what it's touching and whether that object is prey

Close-up of an octopus's suction cups that line its eight tentacles. The scientists identified a novel family of sensors in the first layer of cells inside the suction cups that have adapted to react and detect molecules that don't dissolve well in water. These sensors, called chemotactile receptors, use these molecules to help the animal figure out what it's touching and whether that object is prey

Close-up of an octopus’s suction cups that line its eight tentacles. The scientists identified a novel family of sensors in the first layer of cells inside the suction cups that have adapted to react and detect molecules that don’t dissolve well in water. These sensors, called chemotactile receptors, use these molecules to help the animal figure out what it’s touching and whether that object is prey

About two-thirds of an octopus’s neurons are located in its tentacles, which operate partially independently from the brain.  

That’s why a severed octopus arm can reach for, identify and grasp items for at least an hour after it has become detached from the body.

Bellono and colleagues had already shown that the California two-spot octopus (octopus bimaculoides) responds differently when its suckers touch a prey item versus another object. 

To learn more, the researchers looked more closely at the octopuses’ suckers to identify the discrete populations of chemotactile receptors. 

After isolating and cloning the receptors, they inserted them into frog eggs and in human cell lines to study their function in isolation. 

Nothing like these receptors exists in frog or human cells, so the cells act like closed vessels for the study of these receptors.

The researchers then exposed those cells to molecules such as extracts from octopus prey and others items to which these receptors are known to react. 

Some test subjects were water-soluble, like salts, sugars, amino acids, while others do not dissolve well. 

Close-up of an octopus touching a cup. Anyone of its eight tentacles can still grasp after being severed from the body for at least an hour

Close-up of an octopus touching a cup. Anyone of its eight tentacles can still grasp after being severed from the body for at least an hour

Close-up of an octopus touching a cup. Anyone of its eight tentacles can still grasp after being severed from the body for at least an hour

The team found that only the poorly soluble molecules – the ones that didn’t dissolve in water – activated the receptors.

Researchers then went back to the octopuses in their lab to see whether they too responded to those molecules by putting those same extracts on the floors of their tanks. 

They found the only substances the octopuses receptors responded to were a non-dissolving class of naturally occurring chemicals known as terpenoid molecules.

‘[The octopus] was highly responsive to only the part of the floor that had the molecule infused,’ Bellono said. 

This led the researchers to believe that the receptors they identified pick up on these types of molecules and help the octopus distinguish what it’s touching. 

‘With the semi-autonomous nervous system, it can quickly make this decision, “do I contract and grab this crab or keep searching?”‘ Bellono said. 

Researchers studying the behavior and neuroscience of octopuses have long suspected that the animals' arms may have minds of their own

Researchers studying the behavior and neuroscience of octopuses have long suspected that the animals' arms may have minds of their own

Researchers studying the behavior and neuroscience of octopuses have long suspected that the animals’ arms may have minds of their own

Researchers suggest further study is needed, given that a great number of unknown natural compounds could also stimulate these receptors.

‘We’re now trying to look at other natural molecules that these animals might detect,’ Bellono said.      

Similar receptor systems may occur in other cephalopods, the invertebrate family that also includes squids and cuttlefish.  

‘Not much is known about marine chemotactile behaviour and with this receptor family as a model system, we can now study which signals are important for the animal and how they can be encoded,’ said study author Lena van Giesen at Harvard University. 

‘These insights into protein evolution and signal coding go far beyond just cephalopods.’

The study has been published in the journal Cell.  

OCTOPUS TENTACLES CAN MAKE DECISIONS WITHOUT THE BRAIN 

Octopus suckers can initiate action in response to information they acquire from their environment.

The arms process sensory and motor information, and muster collective action in the peripheral nervous system, without waiting on commands from the brain.

‘The octopus’s arms have a neural ring that bypasses the brain, and so the arms can send information to each other without the brain being aware of it, said Dominic Sivitilli at the University of Washington in Seattle, US. 

‘So while the brain isn’t quite sure where the arms are in space, the arms know where each other are and this allows the arms to coordinate during actions like crawling locomotion.’

Of the octopus’s 500 million neurons, more than 350 million are in its eight arms. 

The arms need all that processing power to manage incoming sensory information, to move and to keep track of their position in space. 

Processing information in the arms allows the octopus to think and react faster, like parallel processors in computers. 

Researchers studying the behavior and neuroscience of octopuses have long suspected that the animals’ arms may have minds of their own.

An octopus arm that has been severed from its body will still move for at least an hour and can still has grabbing reflexes. 

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Nature: Ogre-faced spiders can hear without ears via their hairy legs

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nature ogre faced spiders can hear without ears via their hairy legs

The hairy legs of the ogre-faced spider allow it to hear sound vibrations from up to six feet away — even though it has no actual ears — a study has found.

Experts from the US found that the arachnids — named for their massive eyes, which provide great night vision — can pick up on both low and high frequency sound.

Their legs — and the joint receptors within — pick up on the vibrations, letting them perform feats like catching prey outside of their vision using backwards strikes.

Ogre-faced spiders — formally known as Deinopis spinosa — can be found in Australia, America and Asia.

The hairy legs of the ogre-faced spider, pictured, allow it to hear sound vibrations from up to six feet away — even though it has no actual ears — a study has found

The hairy legs of the ogre-faced spider, pictured, allow it to hear sound vibrations from up to six feet away — even though it has no actual ears — a study has found

The hairy legs of the ogre-faced spider, pictured, allow it to hear sound vibrations from up to six feet away — even though it has no actual ears — a study has found

‘I actually put dental silicone over their eyes so they couldn’t see,’ said paper author and neuroethologist Jay Stafstrom of Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York.

‘And I found that when I put them back out into nature, they couldn’t catch prey from off the ground, but they could still catch insects from out of the air.’

‘So I was pretty sure these spiders were using a different sensory system to hunt flying insects.’

Instead of spinning a web and waiting for prey to get stuck in it, ogre-faced spiders emerge at night to cast their webs — like a thrown net — onto unwary insects.

While they employ their superb night vision to catch prey on the ground, in the air they are able to perform an elaborate backwards strike — one which does not appear to rely on vision in order to be effective.

In lab tests, Dr Stafstrom and colleagues used electrodes placed in the spiders’ brains and legs to measure the arachnids’ neural responses to different tones.

The researchers found that the spiders could hear both low and high tone frequencies — reacting differently to each.

In fact, they determined that the ogre-faced creepy crawlies can hear sounds of up to 10 kilohertz in frequency — far higher than the sound of a walking or flying insect. 

‘When I played low tone frequencies — even from a distance — they would strike like they were hunting an insect, which they don’t do for higher frequencies,’ explained Dr Stafstrom.

‘And — the fact that we were able to do that from a distance, knowing we’re not getting up close and causing them to vibrate — that was key to knowing they can really hear,’ he added. 

Instead of spinning a web and waiting for prey to get stuck in it, ogre-faced spiders emerge at night to cast their webs — like a thrown net — onto unwary insects. While they employ their superb night vision to catch prey on the ground, in the air they are able to perform an elaborate backwards strike (illustrated) — one which does not appear to rely on vision

Instead of spinning a web and waiting for prey to get stuck in it, ogre-faced spiders emerge at night to cast their webs — like a thrown net — onto unwary insects. While they employ their superb night vision to catch prey on the ground, in the air they are able to perform an elaborate backwards strike (illustrated) — one which does not appear to rely on vision

 Instead of spinning a web and waiting for prey to get stuck in it, ogre-faced spiders emerge at night to cast their webs — like a thrown net — onto unwary insects. While they employ their superb night vision to catch prey on the ground, in the air they are able to perform an elaborate backwards strike (illustrated) — one which does not appear to rely on vision

‘I think many spiders can actually hear, but everybody takes it for granted that spiders have a sticky web to catch prey, so they’re only good at detecting close vibrations,’ said paper author and neurobiologist Ron Hoy of Cornell University.

‘Vibration detection works for sensing shaking of the web or ground, but detecting those airborne disturbances at a distance is the province of hearing.’

This, he added, ‘is what we do and what spiders do too, but they do it with specialized receptors, not eardrums.’

Hearing high frequencies may help the spiders avoid predators, the team explained.

‘If you give an animal a threatening stimulus, we all know about the fight or flight response. Invertebrates have that too, but the other “f” is “freeze.” That’s what these spiders do,’ said Professor Hoy.

‘They’re in a cryptic posture. Their nervous system is in a sleep state. But as soon as they pick up any kind of salient stimulus, boom, that turns on the neuromuscular system. It’s a selective attention system.’ 

'I think many spiders can actually hear, but everybody takes it for granted that spiders have a sticky web to catch prey, so they're only good at detecting close vibrations,' said paper author and neurobiologist Ron Hoy of Cornell University

'I think many spiders can actually hear, but everybody takes it for granted that spiders have a sticky web to catch prey, so they're only good at detecting close vibrations,' said paper author and neurobiologist Ron Hoy of Cornell University

‘I think many spiders can actually hear, but everybody takes it for granted that spiders have a sticky web to catch prey, so they’re only good at detecting close vibrations,’ said paper author and neurobiologist Ron Hoy of Cornell University

Ogre-faced spiders, pictured — formally known as Deinopis spinosa — can be found in Australia, America and Asia

Ogre-faced spiders, pictured — formally known as Deinopis spinosa — can be found in Australia, America and Asia

Their legs — and the joint receptors within — pick up on the vibrations, letting them perform feats like catching prey outside of their vision using backwards strikes.

Their legs — and the joint receptors within — pick up on the vibrations, letting them perform feats like catching prey outside of their vision using backwards strikes.

Ogre-faced spiders, pictured — formally known as Deinopis spinosa — can be found in Australia, America and Asia. Their legs — and the joint receptors within — pick up on the vibrations, letting them perform feats like catching prey outside of their vision using backwards strikes.

With their initial study complete, the researchers are now looking to test to what extent the ogre-faced spiders have directional hearing — that is, the ability to tell exactly what direction a sound is coming from.

This ability could well explain how the arachnids can perform their acrobatic backwards hunting strikes without being able to see where they are going.

‘What I found really amazing is that to cast their net at flying bugs they have to do a half backflip and spread their web at the same time, so they’re essentially playing centerfield,’ added Professor Hoy.

‘Directional hearing is a big deal in any animal, but I think there are really going to be some interesting surprises from this spider.’

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Current Biology

IS A FEAR OF SPIDERS IN OUR DNA? 

Recent research has claimed that a fear of spiders is a survival trait written into our DNA.

Dating back hundreds of thousands of years, the instinct to avoid arachnids developed as an evolutionary response to a dangerous threat, the academics suggest.

It could mean that arachnophobia, one of the most crippling of phobias, represents a finely tuned survival instinct.

And it could date back to early human evolution in Africa, where spiders with very strong venom have existed millions of years ago.

Study leader Joshua New, of Columbia University in New York, said: ‘A number of spider species with potent, vertebrate specific venoms populated Africa long before hominoids and have co-existed there for tens of millions of years.

‘Humans were at perennial, unpredictable and significant risk of encountering highly venomous spiders in their ancestral environments.’

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NHS Covid-19 app finally gets an update to stop ‘confusing’ ghost notifications

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nhs covid 19 app finally gets an update to stop confusing ghost notifications

The NHS Covid-19 app has finally received an overdue update to stop users receiving confusing ‘ghost notifications’.

After the app was launched on September 24 it has been downloaded more than 19 million times by people in England and Wales, with 40 per cent of smartphone users installing the app. 

The Department of Health and Social Care also says the update will feature upgrades to how accurate the app is at detecting other users. 

As a result of this and soaring infection rates, more people will be told to self-isolate by the app as the threshold for being deemed a close contact has been lowered.  

Yesterday, Britain announced 24,701 more infections and a further 310 coronavirus victims, up from the 191 posted this time last week.

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Pictured, the notification which will follow one of the so-called 'phantom alerts'. This workaround is designed to quash any concern users may have after receiving the initial notification

Pictured, the notification which will follow one of the so-called 'phantom alerts'. This workaround is designed to quash any concern users may have after receiving the initial notification

Pictured, the notification which will follow one of the so-called ‘phantom alerts’. This workaround is designed to quash any concern users may have after receiving the initial notification 

Many users were getting alerts which were 'default messages' from Apple and Google, saying 'Possible COVID-19 exposure', 'COVID-19 EXPOSURE LOGGING' or 'COVID-19 Exposure Notifications'. Pictured, an example of the phantom notification which was sent out last week

Many users were getting alerts which were 'default messages' from Apple and Google, saying 'Possible COVID-19 exposure', 'COVID-19 EXPOSURE LOGGING' or 'COVID-19 Exposure Notifications'. Pictured, an example of the phantom notification which was sent out last week

Many users were getting alerts which were ‘default messages’ from Apple and Google, saying ‘Possible COVID-19 exposure’, ‘COVID-19 EXPOSURE LOGGING’ or ‘COVID-19 Exposure Notifications’. Pictured, an example of the phantom notification which was sent out last week 

The app uses bluetooth in the background and anonymously works out if you are likely to have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. 

If they have, people receive a notification from the app telling them they must self-isolate.

However, in the five weeks since it went live users have been receiving mysterious notifications that say ‘COVID-19 EXPOSURE LOGGING’ or ‘COVID-19 Exposure Notifications’.

London’s R rate ‘is the worst in England’ 

Coronavirus is spreading fastest in London, according to a study that claims the R rate in the capital is almost as high as three and infections are doubling every three days.

Researchers at Imperial College London, who today estimated a staggering 100,000 people are catching Covid-19 every day across the country, warned the city has a ‘scary’ rate of spread. For comparison, the experts claimed the national R rate is around 1.6 and cases are doubling every nine days.

They predicted the R rate — the average number of people each carrier infects — is higher than two in London, the South East, East and South West, which have mostly escaped any tough local lockdowns. And of the entire south of England, London has the highest prevalence of coronavirus at 0.89 per cent, suggesting more than 80,000 of the city’s nine million residents were infected at any given moment.

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Despite causing fear, they were not a warning of infection and were instead revealed to be default notifications from Apple or Google, who built the app framework.

A quick solution was quietly rolled out on October 13 which sent another notification telling users ‘Don’t worry, we have assessed your risk and there is no need to take action at this time.’ 

Now, the NHS has finally admitted the glitch was confusing and the fix was ‘still an inconvenience and cause for concern for some app users.’ 

The update will do away with these misleading and worrisome notifications all together. 

Gaby Appleton, product director at NHS Test and Trace, said: ‘This update builds on that success by increasing accuracy, and also removing ‘ghost’ exposure notifications, meaning users will only be notified if they need to self-isolate.

‘The more people who use the app, the better it works, so I encourage all those who have not yet downloaded the app to do so.’

Another update to the app is a lowering of the threshold for alerts. 

This means the criteria for being deemed a close contact of an infected person is now easier to meet and more people will be asked to self-isolate as a result. 

Previously, the checklist was being within two metres of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. 

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, this was a score of 900 on its own algorithm. 

However, this threshold will now be lowered to 120. It remains unknown what a 120 score from the algorithm means in reality.  

Other updates are imminent, according to the Department of Health and Social Care, with a November patch intended to allow the NHS app to work seamlessly with users of the separate versions made and used in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Jersey and Gibraltar. 

Leaked SAGE projections made in the summer suggest that under a 'reasonable worst case scenario' daily deaths could remain above 500 for three months or more, potentially lasting into March next year

Leaked SAGE projections made in the summer suggest that under a 'reasonable worst case scenario' daily deaths could remain above 500 for three months or more, potentially lasting into March next year

Leaked SAGE projections made in the summer suggest that under a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ daily deaths could remain above 500 for three months or more, potentially lasting into March next year

How the NHS Covid-19 app works and the reasons behind some of its flaws

 The NHS contact tracing coronavirus app , called NHS Covid-19, is based on  a piece of software, an API, built by tech giants Apple and Google, who came together in an unprecedented alliance at the start of the pandemic.

It works via Bluetooth, which is fitted to almost every smartphone in the world, and involves a notification system to alert people if they have been in close proximity with someone diagnosed with Covid-19.

Apple and Google let the NHS determine what it deems to be suitable exposure for a a person to be considered at risk for infection. 

The NHS set the limit as within 2m for 15 minutes. 

However, Apple and Google have openly said the app is not perfect, due to the fact Bluetooth is being used for something it was never designed for. 

Therefore, phones with the app installed can struggle to tell exactly how far away another device is. 

Although the threshold is set at 2 metres, it emerged in early trials that people as far away as 4m were told thought by the technology to be less than 2m away. 

Officials say that about 30 per cent of people told to self-isolate may have been more than two metres away from a positive case.

However, they claim most of these cases will be at a distance of 2.1m or 2.2 m, with 4m being a rarity.  

Apple and Google have been aware of this issue since the inception of the project and have recently revealed they have used hundreds of different devices to help calibrate the system. 

It is claimed the NHS app is more accurate than other contact tracing apps around the world which also use the Apple and Google API. 

All the technology for the app is done in the phone itself, and no external servers are used, helping protect user data.

No location or personal data is sent to Apple, Google or the NHS and all interactions between phones are anonymous.

The randomised and untraceable links are only stored for two weeks on the phone itself before being permanently deleted. 

A person can also choose to wipe their data clean, either in the app’s settings or by deleting the app.  

In a conference call this week, representatives from both Google and Apple said the app is not intended to replace manual tracing, but to enhance it. 

33521810 8819107 image a 12 1602161375192

33521810 8819107 image a 12 1602161375192

They added that, in the tests done in-house during development, 30 per cent of the exposure notifications that were triggered were not picked up by manual contact tracing. 

For a person to receive am infection notification via the app, both they and the infected person must both have had the app at the time of their interaction.

During this interaction, on a bus for example, the phones acknowledge the device has met the 2m/15 min criteria. 

The devices then automatically exchange anonymous ‘keys’ with each other via Bluetooth. The keys randomise and change approximately every 15 minutes. 

If a person then receives a positive test, they receive a unique PIN from the NHS and input this in the app. 

Once they have done this, all the anonymised keys from the phone of the infected person are added to a cloud database. 

Every app is constantly checking in with the same cloud database to see is any of the ‘keys’ it has come into contact with match the keys of positive tests. 

If a person’s phone finds a match, that person then receives a notification informing them they have been exposed and may be infected. 

The app then provides that person with detailed information from the NHS on the next steps. 

The mobile data needed for the app to work is being allowed free of charge in the UK by network carriers and it is believed the app has negligible impact on battery life.    

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