Boris Johnson has repeated a widely mocked claim that no country has a working contact-tracing app after the Government was forced to shelve production of its own after spending almost £12 million.
Keir Starmer pressed the PM over his track and trace scheme and pushed on why ministers had shelved plans for their own app, after previously describing it as essential.
The Labour leader said: “Other countries are ahead of us. When are we going to have a working app?”
Mr Johnson then repeated a claim made yesterday that Britain wasn’t behind the curve and asked Mr Starmer to name one country with a successful app.
The Prime Minister said: “I wonder whether the Right Honourable Gentleman can name a single country in the world that has a functional contact tracing app. Because there isn’t one.”
Mr Starmer pointed to Germany where the app has been downloaded 12 million times, meaning it can used by about 15% of the population.
The PM defended his Government’s failure to implement an app of its own design.
The UK is now seeking to adopt an existing model in cooperation with Apple and Google, despite previously ruling that out – and delaying introduction until “the winter”.
Other nations used this model early on to roll out applications.
Mr Johnson claimed the app had only ever been imagined as “the icing on the cake”.
Australia, South Korea and Latvia are other countries which have launched apps which are seen as contributing to the successful containment of Covid-19.
The app used by authorities in Singapore has been downloaded by an estimated 20% of the population.
While this density is short of the high levels that would allow the apps to be their most useful, authorities in these countries continue to support their launch and roll out – suggesting they see some advantage in them.
A Labour spokesman said: “If you want other examples, Singapore has launched an app, South Korea has also got an app. So there are a number of countries that are far, far ahead of us.”
A Downing Street spokesman defended Mr Johnson’s comments by pointing to a report by fact-checkers Full Fact.
It concluded that “Multiple countries have launched apps, including Germany, France, Australia, Singapore and Latvia. However uptake has been fairly low, and it’s too early to say whether they will be effective in helping combat Covid-19.”