NHS contact tracing app won't do automatic contact tracing when it launches

The long-delayed NHS contact tracing app to launch this week won’t automatically trace whether you’ve been in contact with people with Coronavirus, Number 10 has confirmed.

A Downing Street spokesman said that when it launches on Thursday, the app will be missing its key feature.

When it was first announced in May, it was intended that it would use bluetooth connections to map who a user had been close to.

When a user tested positive, the system was supposed to inform others they had been close to that they should self-isolate.

After testing on the Isle of Wight, ministers admitted the core functionality did not work as well as was needed.

So Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the app would move to a model developed by Apple and Google.

As recently as last month, the government said the new app would include a pulsing green tick to show automatic contact tracing was active.

It would alert people when they came into contact with a positive case, and could be turned off when phones are in a locker or people were behind a screen.

But No10 has now said that function will not be ready for the app when it launches this week.

Instead it will include basic functions allowing people to book tests, check the “risk level” in their area, and check into a pub or restaurant using a QR code.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It will be there to check and report symptoms, book a test, find out if you tested positive or not and if you need to self isolate.

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Images released last month claimed contact tracing would be a key feature of the app

“You’ll be able to check the risk level of your local area and it will provide for the QR code check-in on entry to various premises with your phone instead of having to fill out a check-in book or anything else to provide your contact details.”

He added: “It will work on both Apple and Android phones.”

Asked if the app would be made mandatory, the spokesman said: “It is not the intention to make it mandatory, but I think what you will see is it will be backed by a social media campaign pointing out the role that it can play in helping you to check and report symptoms, and to help keep yourself, your loved ones and your friends safe.”

And asked to confirm whether the automatic testing function would be ready at launch, the spokesman said: “I’ve set out for you the functions which it will have when it’s launched.”


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