A new mobile phone app to help reduce the disproportionate number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people affected by Covid-19 is being designed by a team of Scottish academics.

Led by Dr Muhammad Zeeshan Shakir at UWS, with funding from CEMVO Scotland through Scottish Government and Comic Relief (NSI funding), the app will provide government guidance in a variety of languages and formats to help local communities understand and adhere to social distancing guidelines and avoid unnecessary risks.

According to the Office of National Statistics, Covid-19 has disproportionately affected BAME communities, with BAME people representing around 15.5% of all deaths connected to the virus.

For some communities, accessing information on social distancing guidelines and information on easing of lockdown restrictions has proven to be a barrier.

As lockdown restrictions begin to lift and social distancing guidelines ease, it’s important that information is available to people in whatever format they require. The new mobile 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 navigate the pandemic.

Dr Muhammad Zeeshan Shakir, UWS

The app will send users alerts in their preferred language and format. This will include text-to-voice for blind and visually impaired users, colour-coded and large-font for elderly people, different languages, and options for people with dementia to be added at a later stage.

It will include real-time footfall at local shops and facilities to help users schedule visits at quieter times to avoid queueing and overcrowding. Users will also receive up-to-date public health information on social distancing, hand washing and self-isolation guidelines in different languages, which are being developed in consultation with CEMVO.

Users will receive push notifications with reminders about current guidelines and any changes to rules.

We are delighted to be working with UWS in developing this mobile app, which we know will be an important and highly useful tool in helping ethnic minority people to receive public health guidance on Covid-19 and in avoiding shops with high footfalls. The app may not be the sole solution to addressing the issue of the disproportionately high rate of ethnic minority coronavirus deaths, but will at least be a step in addressing one of the many possible reasons for the high number of BAME Covid-19 deaths.

Colin Lee, Chief Executive of CEMVO Scotland

The 12-month project is now underway, with the app expected to be released by November 2020.