THE NHS coronavirus app won’t be rolled out across the country for weeks, Dominic Raab said today.
After a trial on the Isle of Wight earlier this month with 60,000 downloads, it’s still not yet ready to go to everyone just yet, the Foreign Secretary said this evening.
He told the daily Downing Street briefing: “In terms of the app, it’s still our intention to roll it across the country for everyone to use in the weeks ahead, but we are making pretty good progress with it.”
But he couldn’t give a definite date of when that would be.
Last week Health Secretary Hancock said the trial was going well and that the national rollout would happen “in mid-May”.
That led to belief it would be by the end of this week.
The Government has said it will still deliver its thousands of contact tracers by the end of the week as planned, but stressed that it was “possible” to do so without the app.
They have hired 21,000 tracers and call handlers so far – more than the 18,000 billed.
They will help manually trace people who have come into contact with individuals who test positive for Covid-19.
“That programme is absolutely key in the next steps we need to take as a country to come through this pandemic safely and responsibly,” Mr Raab said this evening.
Some easing of the lockdown is due to take place from June 1, but ministers have stressed it could be after than that if the science doesn’t support a change.
Track and trace of everyone who gets coronavirus and making contact with everyone the infected person has bumped into, is seen as key to lifting lockdown measures.
A tracing system was in place in the UK back in February and March, but was abandoned when community transmission increased and the virus spread more widely.
Critics have blasted the Government for stopping track and trace, and have insisted it cold have saved lives.
Downing Street has stressed it will rely on the five tests Boris Johnson set out, and is not tied to track and trace or the NHS app.
A No10 spokesperson said earlier: “It is possible to track and trace work separately to the app.
“That is obviously something that happened previously and it is perfectly positioned to do that again.”
The app uses bluetooth signals to alert people when they have been near someone who tests positive for the virus.
Speaking this afternoon, Mr Hancock said: “I can confirm that we have recruited over 21,000 contact tracers in England. This includes 7,500 health care professionals who will provide our call handlers with expert clinical advice.
“They will help manually trace the contacts of anyone who’s had a positive test and advise them on whether they need to isolate. They have rigorous training with detailed procedures designed by our experts at Public Health England.
“They have stepped up to serve their county in its hour of need and I want to thank them in advance for the lifesaving work that they’re about to do.”
Mr Hancock said he is “perfectly prepared to hire more” contact tracers if needed.