Location data from NHS contact-tracing app could help avoid second lockdown, says former Health Secretary

“It may well be that the relaxation of lockdown or reimposition of lockdown requirements at some point in the future should be geographically differentiated. Having that geographical make-up would be really important. 

“Up to now we have our understanding of the nature of the disease by virtue of the number of people hospitalised, which is so much of a lagging indicator that it doesn’t really help much.”

Meanwhile, the NHS is continuing its trial of the app on the Isle of Wight this week and said that more than 55,000 people have downloaded it, with an average of 25 people being tested a day for coronavirus as a result.

The app is set to be an integral part of the Government’s ‘test, track and trace’ strategy to control infections as lockdown restrictions ease.

Alongside the app’s self-isolate alerts, the strategy will see mass-testing of people showing symptoms and an army of 18,000 human contact-tracers following-up with confirmed cases of the virus.

On Tuesday, Mr Hancock insisted the system would roll out to the rest of England in “mid-May”, but did not disclose a specific date despite the 15th being this Friday.

He said: “We’re rolling out in mid-May. The Isle of Wight project has gone well so far, we’ve learned a lot about how the app operates, also about people who don’t have the app – how to make sure that they can get testing and the contact tracing can work for them – the interaction of the technology and the human-based contact tracing.

“We’re pleased with progress, and we’re going to bring it in. And we’re going to learn the lessons from the technical improvements that we’re making from what we’ve seen on the Isle of Wight.”

Meanwhile, yesterday the public were warned people are already being targeted by scams pretending to be linked to the NHS app.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said it had uncovered phishing operations sending people bogus texts that told them they needed to contact someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. 

A link would then take them to a sham site where they would be asked to enter personal details. 

Katherine Hart, CTSI Lead Officer, said: “These texts are a way to steal personal data and may put the bank accounts of recipients at risk.”

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