Time to track and trace?

Boris Johnson has promised to put a scheme in place

Evening Standard

Government minister retreats on schools reopening as UK 'losing race on track and trace'

A cabinet minister today signalled possible delays of “weeks” to nationwide tracking and tracing combined with the NHS app to contain fresh coronavirus outbreaks — and retreated from demanding that all schools restart lessons from June 1.

In a softening of the Government’s schedule for exiting lockdown, Robert Buckland said contact-tracing, which was due to be in place by the end of May, would have to be phased in and declined to guarantee it would be finished within a month from now.

The Justice Secretary suggested the NHS app, which will alert users if they have been in close proximity with someone reporting Covid-19 symptoms, would take “several weeks” to get ready.

However, Mr Buckland said more than 20,000 recruits were ready to start work once the systems are developed.

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Will "track and trace" be in place when Boris Johnson says it will?

By Joe Harker

At prime minister's questions Boris Johnson was struggling to give Sir Keir Starmer a clear answer on anything.

His government has been slow to introduce plenty of necessary measures and in lieu of answers the prime minister has often resorted to bluster at the dispatch box.

Desperate to give the Labour leader a response during questioning over tracking and tracing the spread of coronavirus, Johnson promised to have it in place by June 1.

The Claim:

Johnson said he was "confident" that a "world beating system" would be in place next month.

That would require the smartphone app to be ready and for 25,000 trackers to deal with up to 10,000 cases being reported each day. Someone actually has to map out the spread of the virus as the public inputs their details on the app.

With little over a week to go before the government's promised rollout of the app it would take a significant leap forwards to get it all in place and working.

Scientific experts have told the government they need to be able to track the spread of the virus before lockdown lightening measures such as reopening schools is done.

The lighter the lockdown the greater the risk of the coronavirus spreading, knowing where it has come from and how it spread is crucial to dodging a second spike in cases.

The Counter Claim:

However, there are worries that the prime minister made a promise he can't keep just to get Starmer off his back in the short term.

On the day that Johnson committed to having tracking and tracing ready on June 1 one of his ministers was warning there could be a delay of "weeks".

Cabinet minister Robert Buckland said contact tracing was supposed to be in place by the end of May but the app the public would need to use was "several weeks" away from being ready.

Without the app working there isn't going to be a world class contact tracing system in place as Johnson is promising. The government has little over a week to get it ready.

Johnson's spokesperson admitted that the app would take some weeks to get ready.

The government might be able to get some part of their contact tracing system launched on June 1 but without the app being ready it will be incomplete.

Much as they fiddled the figures on coronavirus testing to pretend they'd hit their 100,000 a day target it's very possible this government could launch some parts of their contact tracing system and pretend they'd got it all up and running.

After all, how much of the public actually keeps a close enough watch on this sort of thing to know when they're obfuscating the truth? If the government pretends they've succeeded and their claims of a target met are all over the front pages then how many people who see that will know it's bogus?

The Facts:

The government didn't launch their plans for a track and trace system in March due to a lack of coronavirus testing.

The contact tracing app is currently being trialled on the Isle of Wight, there have been a number of problems with the software.

A number of security issues have been found and the UK wasted time trying to go it alone with an app which would have barely worked on people's phones unless they had the device unlocked and the app on the screen at all times.

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Boris Johnson vows test and trace scheme will be in place by 1 June after Keir Starmer presses him over delay

Boris Johnson has vowed the government’s test, track and trace scheme to curb the spread of coronavirus will be in place by 1 June.

Under pressure from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, the prime minister gave a guarantee that the operation would be ready within days – despite concerns over the readiness of a new smartphone app and the number of contact tracers to carry out the scheme.

In a fraught exchange at prime minister’s questions, Mr Johnson first replied that he was ”confident” that the UK will have a test-and-trace operation in place by June.

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