The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health says the Government will put a human tracing programme in place, before rolling out the coronavirus app nationwide.
It comes as The Independent reports that the app will not be ready for 1 June, when Downing Street plans to relax lockdown restrictions further.
It has been two weeks since the track, trace and test technology went live to the Isle of Wight.
However, Health Minister, Lord Jim Bethell, has admitted that it was “probably a mistake” to launch it without getting the public used to the idea of tracing.
Responding to a question from Baroness Jenny Jones of Mouslecoomb, from the Green Party, he said:
“One of the criteria of success is to learn from the pilot, which takes an early version of the app and hopes to develop learnings from it; we now have two or three.
“One of them, which I have mentioned, is that it is probably a mistake to launch an app before you have got the public used to the idea of tracing.
“As I mentioned in an earlier answer, that is something we have taken on board. When it comes to launching the test and tracing programme, we will begin with the tracing, not with the app.”
From day one, developers have insisted its early roll-out here is about “making sure it works well”, before it is released on a mass scale.
The Island’s MP Bob Seely says around 53,500 Islanders have downloaded it so far, as Isle of Wight Radio reported earlier this week.
Vix Lowthion, spokesperson for the Isle of Wight Green Party, says:
“I welcome this admission by the government that it was a “mistake to launch the app” before thorough, localised, manual tracing was in place.
“Technology can offer us an effective tool to identify where the virus is in the coming months, but it cannot protect us by itself. The government was wrong to begin to ease lockdown on the Isle of Wight at the same time as introducing an app – but before the public had been regularly involved with a local test and tracing programme. “
MP Bob Seely says the Isle of Wight is continuing to provide “invaluable feedback”.
“The app remains an important part of the trace and test programme which the UK is putting in place. It is not, and never has been, a stand-alone project, but is part of the wider three-pronged approach: the app, wider tracing and a comprehensive test programme. NHSX – the digital arm of the NHS – and Public Health England continue to work to ensure an integrated scheme.
“The app being used on the Island at the moment is effectively a beta version. It is and remains fully usable, and (a) people are still able to report symptoms through it and (b) notifications of being in contact with someone who has developed symptoms are being received, with instructions on what to do next.
“There will be upgrades to it and when we know more, I will pass that information on, but nothing specifically has changed. The app continues to be used and tested prior to national roll-out.
“I would ask Islanders to download (or continue with) the app. It helps to keep us safe, to reduce the COVID-19 infections on the Island and assist the rest of the country. Every day, health and digital professionals are learning more about how the app works in practise and identifying how it can be improved.
“I also welcome the fact that NHSX have enabled independent evaluation of the app to take place. The source code was published several days ago, thereby allowing third parties to scrutinise it and detect any vulnerabilities. The issues being identified are very low risk and are now being addressed as the app continues to improve ahead of fuller integration with the wider trace and test programme.”
Dr Ian Levy, Technical Director at the National Cyber Security Centre, has revealed what has been learnt from the ‘trial’ so far.
Read the report here.