No app until winter?

It could be months before a contact tracing app is ready

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Could it be winter before the UK has a contact tracing app?

By Joe Harker

For weeks the UK's contact tracing app due to be part of the supposed "world beating" track and trace system was perpetually coming in the near future.

Like a taxi driver that's "just coming around the corner, mate" when they're several miles away or a takeaway delivery that's five minutes away for almost an hour, the contact tracing app has been about two weeks away from a nationwide launch after testing on the Isle of Wight.

The UK pushed ahead with its own version of the app, using a centralised database and attempting to find their own ways around the technological issues instead of working with tech companies Apple and Google as many other countries have done.

However, the independent app is being dropped after a slew of technical problems and criticism from privacy campaigners.

The Claim:

The Guardian reports that health minister Lord Bethell of Romford, the minister in charge of the app, has said it is not currently a priority for the government to develop.

A contact tracing app using the model based off Apple and Google's developments will not be ready until autumn at the earliest, while Lord Bethell has suggested they are "seeking to get something going for the winter".

It's a far cry from health secretary Matt Hancock's previous claim that an app would be ready to go in May to be ready for the launch of the track and trace system.

Where once the government was indicating they needed an app and were working on making it something the entire public could use, now it is being dismissed as no longer being a priority.

Lord Bethell said the government didn't want to release something that wasn't quite ready, but now it will fall to the thousands of contact tracers hired to do the job without an app.

The Counter Claim:

As he missed deadlines and an ambiguous new target was repeatedly kicked down the road Hancock has grown cold on the idea that an app is a vital part of contact tracing.

One would hope he is right, otherwise the UK's track and trace system is going to go months without a key component.

Hancock and the rest of the UK government has repeatedly trumpeted their "world beating" track and trace system but the app certainly hasn't been good enough and there have been other problems with contact tracing.

The system has been unable to reach 26 per cent of people who tested positive for the virus, while many of the people who have been hired to run the system have complained of having few cases to deal with each week and a lack of proper training.

Other problems have cropped up with people not being willing to go into self-isolation and testing results not being returned quickly enough to alert people that they've been in contact with an infected individual.

The Facts:

Other countries such as Germany and Italy are already rolling out apps based on Google and Apple's technology.

The UK has spent £11.8 million on developing the unused app, with significant problems faced in getting the app to keep working on phones that are designed not to let apps use bluetooth signals constantly.

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