Coronavirus: Contact-tracing app to launch in mid-May
The coronavirus contact-tracing app will be rolled out across England in mid-May, health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed today.
The NHS app, which authorities hope will help to track the spread of the virus, was launched on a trial basis on the Isle of Wight last week.
Hancock today said the government was “pleased” with progress made during the trial and would look to roll the app out in the coming weeks.
“The Isle of Wight project has gone well so far, we’ve learned a lot about how the app operates, also about people who don’t have the app — how to make sure that they can get testing and the contact tracing can work for them — the interaction of the technology and the human-based contact tracing,” he told Sky News.
Roughly 50,000 people had downloaded the app by the end of last week, which represents less than half of the island’s population.
Officials have said that at least 60 per cent of Brits will need to use the app in order for it to be effective.
The government has also begun to develop a second contact-tracing app using technology made by Google and Apple after islanders reported teething problems with the NHS app, the Financial Times reported last week.
But Hancock today insisted the wider rollout of the original app will go ahead as planned.
“We’re going to learn the lessons from the technical improvements that we’re making from what we’ve seen on the Isle of Wight,” he said.
The app forms a key part of the government’s “test, track and track” strategy for easing the coronavirus strategy, though updates on the technology were absent from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Sunday night.
The prime minister said the spread of Covid-19 would be labelled according to a new five-level alert system, with one marking the eradication of the virus and five the most critical level.
The alert level will be primarily determined by the reproductive rate of the virus — known as R — which must remain below one. Hancock today said the R was “broadly in the middle of the range” of 0.5 to 0.9.
But the app may be crucial to identifying local flare-ups of Covid-19, as well as establishing a broader national picture.
Johnson said the government would “not hesitate to put the brakes on” its lockdown easing plan on a regional or national level if there is a dangerous second wave of infections.