Contact-tracing app in place by end of month

Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that the new NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app should be in place by the end of the month, despite claims that it will not be ready until September.

Zahawi said that the app, which has been trialled in the Isle of Wight, will ‘be running as soon as we think it is robust’. The technology was originally set to launched nationwide by the middle of May.

Test and trace schemes were launched in England and Scotland last week, albeit without the app. Zahawi said that the pilot in the Isle of Wight showed people actually preferred to be contacted by a human being, ‘which is why we've recruited 25,000 people who are track-and-tracers who can deal with about 10,000 cases a day’.

However, the minister’s claims have been contradicted by reports in the Guardian, who claim that Tony Prestedge, the chief operating officer of the NHS scheme, admitted in a webinar to staff that the programme would be ‘imperfect’ at launch, adding that he hoped it would be operational at a world-class level within three to four months.

Many scientists have argued that lockdown measures should not be eased until the test-and-trace service is well established. Prestedge said he expected test and trace to be running for 24 months and that initially test results would take two to three days to arrive, with the hope this would improve over time.

The Guardian claims follow a leaked email from Rupert Soames, the chief executive of Serco, one of the main companies contracted to deliver the service, which revealed doubts that the scheme would evolve smoothly but said that it should ‘cement the position of the private sector’ in the NHS supply chain.

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