During the height of the coronavirus pandemic several weeks ago, the Heath Secretary said the app would be available in mid-May following a trial on the Isle of Wight. But the Government has launched the Test and Trace system without it, with 25,000 contract tracers employed to contact people who have been put at risk by a confirmed COVID-19 patient. Lord Bethell, the health minister responsible for the coronavirus testing programme, admitted the app has now taken a back seat and is no longer the Government’s main priority.
He told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee: “The pilot on the Isle of Wight has gone very well indeed and it has led to some infections being avoided, but one of the things it taught us is that it is the human contact that is most valued by people.
“There is a danger of being too technological and relying too much on texts and emails and alienating people because you’re telling them quite alarming news through quite casual communication.
“Whereas the call centres we’ve put together have actually worked extremely well. So that is where our focus is at the moment.”
Lord Bethell continued: “Apps around the world have been challenging and I note that the Norwegians, Singaporeans, the French and others have all been working on their app releases.
“We’re seeking to get something for the winter, but it isn’t a priority for us at the moment.”
The app has faced a barrage of criticism since it was announced by the Government in a daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street several weeks ago.
Experts have raised serious concerns over privacy, while others argued it would not work in congested areas such as crowded tower blocks, and continued delays now putting back its launch date by months as opposed to just weeks.
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7.45am update: Qantas cancels nearly all international flights until late October
The airline giant has announced all international flights, except those for New Zealand, have been cancelled until late October.
Australia’s Government has said the country’s border would remain closed into 2021 in order to bring the spread of coronavirus under control.
Qantas and subsidiary Jetstar are now increasing domestic flights as travel restrictions within Australia are lifted.