James Cleverly explained the Government’s reasoning for discontinuing the app and switching to a Google-Android version while on the panel show. The Tory MP noted the Government had to trial an app to find the best one to use. An audience member asked him “Do you not think the public is going to see this another U-turn again and it’s going to be even harder to get public on board to actually use the app when it does become live?”
Speaking on the show, Mr Cleverly said: “We use the word ‘U-turn’, I was in business before I came into politics.
“If you are going to test a couple of options to see which one progresses best and see which one works and then invest your time and effort in the better performing one of those options.
“That’s not a U-turn. That’s why there were tests on the Isle of Wight.”
Host, Fiona Bruce, added: “If Matt Hancock says you were trialling both options and you were trialling the NHS app then presumably you were trialling the other one as well? That’s what backing both options is.”
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The MP for Braintree continued: “The test of our in-house app was done on the Isle of Wight, we were keeping our options.
“The other system is being used more widely and it’s not necessary for us to trial both as it’s being used elsewhere.
“The reason we were trialling, is to make sure we chose the best option.
“Each option has its advantages and disadvantages and it was not clear cut at the start of this process that this would be the better option, that’s why you test.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has defended the Government’s decision to abandon developing its own contact tracing app, insisting that joining forces with Apple and Google will offer a new, improved design.
In a major U-turn, the app developed by the NHS’s digital arm NHSX will now be dropped, but Mr Hancock said some of its features will be incorporated into a new design with Apple and Google.
He told the daily Downing Street briefing developers had been working on both the NHSX app and the design offered by Apple and Google since May, but the NHSX app had hit a “technical barrier” during testing on the Isle of Wight.
The Health Secretary said: “We found that our app works well on Android devices but Apple software prevents iPhones being used effectively for contact tracing unless you are using Apple’s own technology.”
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But Mr Hancock said that the NHSX app was better at measuring distance than the Google-Apple model.
“As it stands, our app won’t work because Apple won’t change their system, but it can measure distance,” he said.
“And their app can’t measure distance well enough to a standard that we are satisfied with.”
Mr Hancock said the solution was to work together to overcome the problems, adding: “We have agreed to join forces with Google and Apple to bring the best bits of both systems together.
“We will share our algorithm and the work that we have done on distance calculation and combine that with their work to deliver a new solution.”