A new mobile phone app has launched to help tackle the disproportionate number of ethnic minority people affected by COVID-19.

Stay Safe Scotland has been developed by academics at University of the West of Scotland (UWS) in partnership with the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO) Scotland, with contributory funding from the Scottish Government and Comic Relief.

According to the Office for National Statistics, ethnic minority communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, with people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds representing around 15.5% of all deaths connected to the virus (Jun 2020).

Developed by a team led by Dr Muhammad Zeeshan Shakir from the University’s School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences, the app seeks to overcome some of the major barriers faced by ethnic minority communities in Scotland by providing crucial public health information on social distancing, hand washing and self-isolation in a variety of different languages.

It also provides footfall data at nearly 100 supermarkets throughout Scotland to help users schedule visits at quieter times, and to avoid queuing and overcrowding.

UWS’s Dr Shakir said: “Stay Safe Scotland is an important development in the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The app will provide an accessible platform which will ensure that no communities are left behind, providing information on the latest guidance in a variety of formats to help people stay safe and make the right choices as we continue to navigate the pandemic.”

Colin Lee, Chief Executive of CEMVO Scotland, said: “We are delighted to be launching this mobile app in partnership with UWS, with the knowledge that it will help many ethnic minority people to be alert to high footfalls at supermarkets and in the process, to keep safe and protected during this pandemic.”

Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Older People and Equalities, said: “I am painfully aware that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on some of our minority ethnic communities has caused, and continues to cause, real distress.

“The Scottish Government is determined to do whatever we can to address that and ensure everyone has access to the information and advice they need to keep themselves safe. That’s why innovations like this new app are so important, and I hope it will be of real, practical use to many of our minority ethnic communities.”

Stay Safe Scotland is currently available for Android devices, and can be downloaded for free through Google Play.