The sensitivity of the NHS Covid contact tracing app will be reviewed, amid a rise in alerts as infections surge.
The NHS Covid contact tracing app used in England and Wales may need to change as coronavirus restrictions change, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
He said that the end of the one metre plus rule on 19 July may mean the app’s sensitivity needs to be reduced too.
The app currently works by detecting the distance between users and the length of time spent in close proximity – which is currently two metres or less and more than 15 minutes.
The news comes amid a huge rise in alerts as infections surge and under the current rules those who receive an alert are asked to self-isolate at home for up to ten days.
Both the hospitality industry and NHS trusts have warned MPs that the impact on the economy and workplaces could be huge, as it could lead to millions being asked to self-isolate this summer, according to a BBC report.
“We will make sure the app is constantly reviewed so it’s appropriate for the period of time we’re living through, particularly as we’re getting to a majority of adults having been double-vaccinated” Schapps told the BBC.
He insisted that the app was still “very important as one of the tools in our armoury” though. “It’s in our interests as a society to carry on doing the things that protect each other,” Schapps said.
He said there were still lots of people downloading it and said he had not seen any data showing people were deleting it.
A test and trace adviser to the government earlier this week also dismissed suggestions that people are deleting the app and instead said usage is at an “all-time high”.
Epidemiologist professor Christophe Fraser, who advised the Department of Health on the programme told Times Radio: “About 50 per cent of all test results nationally go through the app.”
The news comes on the heels of hints by Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the way the NHS app ‘pings’ people for self-isolation could change as Covid-19 cases are expected to rise over the summer, as businesses have become increasingly frustrated with high staff absences due to employees being told to self-isolate.
“I’ve spoken to the Health Secretary about this and he’s aware of the frustration that people have around this,” Sunak told Sky News.
“I know most people’s concerns rest with how the app is working, and the Health Secretary is aware of that.
“The app counts for the majority of the people who need to isolate, I understand, on the numbers, and he’s looking at what the most appropriate, balanced and proportionate approach to isolation is in these circumstances.”
The news also follows other changes in the government guidance including double-jabbed people, who have been in close contact with a positive Covid case, no longer having to self-isolate after 16 August.