The Health Service Executive will begin testing its Covid-19 contact tracing app in the coming week, however it will be some time more before it is available to the wider public.

The app aims to notify the user if they have come into close contact with someone who has the virus in order to better facilitate contact tracing and testing.

A number of countries including Singapore and Australia have already launched similar apps, with many others currently developing their own.

First announced in late March, the HSE app had initially been promised for early April. However its timing has slipped repeatedly since then, with a launch targeted for the end of May the latest to be missed.

In a statement the HSE said the app is now being prepared for field testing, which is due to commence in the coming week.

It said a wider launch would come "once it is fully operational and the necessary approvals have been received from the Data Protection Commissioner, NPHET, HSE and Government."

Before a public launch the HSE and Waterford-based developer Nearform will also submit a Data Protection Impact Assessment to the Data Protection Commissioner.

This, along with the app's source code and technical documentation will also be made available, the HSE said.

One of the reasons for the delay in the app’s launch is the decision to utilise the exposure notification framework jointly developed by Apple and Google.

Launched earlier this month, the Application Programme Interface (API) makes it easier for designated apps to use a smartphone’s Bluetooth connection as part of an exposure notification process.

In theory this will allow phones to log when a user comes into close contact with someone else who has the app, and if one later tests positive for Covid-19 the other can be alerted.

However the Apple/Google framework is also structured to better protect user privacy, for example by using ever-changing codes to identify individuals and keeping details of people’s interactions on their devices rather than a centralised server.

It also prohibits the use of location data in any tracing app.

The HSE said its app was being designed "in a way that maximises privacy as well as maximising value for public health."

It confirmed the app would be voluntary and fully opt-in, as it will require users to actively download it and agree to share data.