The troubled coronavirus NHS app won’t be able to track if someone has been in contact with an infected person, it has appeared.
The long-awaited innovation will finally be launched on Thursday – four months later – but without the technology for its original purpose, Downing Street acknowledged.
Instead, it will allow users to simply check and report symptoms, book a test, see if the result is positive, check local risk level and provide contact details to the buildings.
A spokesman for Boris Johnson insisted that it would remain “of benefit to the public,” saying, “It will provide an easy and accessible way to present information about where you have been.”
However, the actual contact tracing will continue to be done by the much criticized testing and tracking system, which is mainly run by private call center companies.
The speaker was unable to determine if contact-tracking technology could be added to the app at a later time.
The revelation is the latest setback for a service that ministers once praised as a game-changer in curbing the spread of Covid-19, but it has been mentioned only rarely.
It will use the bluetooth signal in both Apple and Android cell phones to discover the close and continuous connection between users, when lunch is on Thursday.
But it was largely rebuilt – and apparently downgraded – from an earlier version that was pulled from the public release at the last minute after tests on the Isle of Wight revealed flaws.
There are also concerns that it will have little effect unless proven by most of the public. Experts once warned that 80 percent of use was needed – but even the most successful applications in other countries have not exceeded 40 percent.
Meanwhile, in new evidence that tougher restrictions on the coronavirus are on its way to England, the prime minister will make a statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Before that, he will host the first Cobra meeting since mid-May, and later on Monday – he will hold one-on-one talks with the first ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The spokesperson was unable to say that there were any plans to speak with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who protested against his suspension.
He agreed with scientific advisers that the coming months will be difficult, describing them as “what is likely to be a difficult winter period.”
“You can see what has been happening over the past 72 or 96 hours,” the spokesman said.
On Friday, the Prime Minister spoke of his fears of a second wave. There was an update to the cabinet on Saturday, as the prime minister held meetings with scientific advisers and colleagues yesterday.
“Today he will deal with delegated departments, let’s see where we are going.
Tomorrow morning is an opportunity for Cobra to discuss next steps that may be required in the response to the Coronavirus. “