Home Office minister James Brokenshire has warned there is still no set date for the rollout of the UK’s coronavirus tracing app as NHS leaders warn that time is running out to get a track and trace system in place to stop a second peak.
Brokenshire said this morning that there was “no definitive timeline” for the app to launch in the UK, after issues with its trial in the Isle of Wight.
It comes after Boris Johnson yesterday promised the UK would have a “world beating” test, track and trace system by 1 June.
It is understood that the system at first will be done over the phone, without the app, and will utilise more than 20,000 recruited contact tracers.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman today said: “The app is only one part of the test and trace system.”
This is despite earlier announcements by health secretary Matt Hancock only focussing on the track and trace app, and not any manual system.
The NHS Confederation, a representative body for NHS bosses, has said there would be “severe” consequences if the system wasn’t implemented soon.
Speaking to the BBC today, NHS Confederation chief Niall Dickson said: “We are absolutely clear that contact tracing is the right thing to do, it is absolutely critical, it has got to be in place to prevent any notion of a second surge if the lockdown is being further released.”
Contact tracing has been used to great effect in South Korea, which has had less than 300 deaths from coronavirus.
The UK app, when launched, will allow people to alert the NHS if they have coronavirus-like symptoms.
The app will then send a message to those who have been in contact with the person displaying symptoms, with tests then administered to all those who need them and instructions to self-isolate.
It is considered as the government’s best tool in avoiding a second Covid-19 peak and the key to easing social distancing restrictions further.
Speaking to Sky News today, Brokenshire said: “We obviously want to see that the app is put in place well and effectively, learning from the experience in the Isle of Wight and dealing with any… all of the feedback that we’re receiving on some of the technical issues, to ensure that that is as strong as we can make it.
“But that should not stand in the way of the introduction of the track and trace arrangements that I’ve explained.”