Health secretary calls on public to embrace technology
Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images
Matt Hancock has told the public they have a “duty” to download the NHS’s coronavirus contact tracing app when it becomes available.
The health secretary said the NHS-developed app would be crucial in getting “our liberty back”, as ministers plan the next steps for easing the coronavirus lockdown.
The app, which is currently undergoing a pilot study on the Isle of Wight, will alert users if they have been in significant contact with an infected person, and allow medical staff to follow the spread of the illness
Ministers said the “test, track and trace” scheme will also include thousands of on-the-ground contact tracers, but experts have already warned around 60% of the public would have to download the software for the plans to be successful.
Speaking ahead of the launch of a national campaign to persuade the public to use the app, Hancock told BBC Breakfast that those who take part were “doing your duty and you’re helping to save lives”.
His comments come amid growing fears over the security of the app, with the Health Service Journal reporting the tracing app had failed key tests on cybersecurity, performance and clinical safety.
But questioned about those concerns, Hancock said the app had been developed to bring “high privacy” to user’s data.
He told BBC Breakfast: “The data is stored on your phone until you need a test in which case you’ve got to tell us who you are because we’ve got to get the test to you. So, the data is stored entirely on the phone, it doesn’t go into some sort of database in the sky. I think we can give very significant reassurance on the privacy aspect.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the programme that although he hoped the app would be successful, ministers needed to go further in boosting the number of physical contact tracers.
“I think the whole country wants the trial to succeed because testing, and tracing is going to be crucial to the easing of restrictions,” he said. “I want to see the trials succeed. I hope it does. I’m a bit concerned that a similar app in Singapore only had, something like a 20% take-up rate.
“So we’re going to have to have a traditional way of tracing as well which is doing it all manually because if you put all your eggs in the basket of this particular app, a) it might not work or b) maybe not enough take it up.”