The NHS contact-tracing app won’t be prepared earlier than winter, a well being minister has mentioned, regardless of initially being promised in mid-Could.
Lord Bethell mentioned the Division of Well being was “searching for to get one thing going for the winter”.
However, he instructed a committee of MPs, the app wasn’t “the precedence for the time being”.
Lord Bethell confirmed the federal government nonetheless deliberate to introduce a contact-tracing app, describing it as “a very vital choice for the longer term”.
The app has been the topic of a trial on the Isle of Wight, the place the Division of Well being says it has been downloaded by 54,000 folks.
Lord Bethell mentioned the trial had been a hit, however admitted that one in every of its principal classes had been that better emphasis wanted to be positioned on handbook contact tracing.
“It was a reminder you can’t take a completely technical reply to the issue,” he mentioned.
As an alternative, he mentioned, the federal government was “centered on getting handbook contact tracing right”.
Lord Bethell added the Division of Well being was “not feeling nice time stress” to introduce an app, noting that international locations around the globe have been nonetheless within the early levels of introducing their very own.
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Well being Secretary Matt Hancock had initially promised the app could be rolled out nationally from mid-Could.
France, Italy and Germany have all launched contact-tracing apps to observe COVID-19 in latest weeks.
Requested why the app had taken so lengthy to launch, Lord Bethell instructed the Science and Expertise Committee the Isle of Wight trial had proven that individuals “weren’t fearful of it, as we have been nervous that they may be” – and had additionally offered “concrete examples” of successes in breaking transmission chains.
However he admitted there had been “technical challenges”, in addition to an “ongoing battle” to steer folks the system was protected and privacy-protecting.
Lord Bethell mentioned that “folks’s issues in regards to the app are huge and proper and we’re actually acutely aware of it.”
He mentioned the worry of elevating privateness issues was one of many causes the federal government had not launched the app earlier, including: “If we did not fairly get it proper the primary time spherical, we’d poison the pool and shut off a very vital choice for the longer term.”
In its COVID-19 technique Plan to Rebuild, the federal government had described the app an integral a part of the Take a look at and Hint programme for combating coronavirus.
In a press release earlier within the day, a spokesperson from the Division of Well being and Social Care had mentioned it will be “rolling out the app nationally quickly.”
The spokesperson added: “The app will complement the NHS Take a look at and Hint programme which is already up and working and serving to to avoid wasting lives.”