As the Isle of Wight prepares to trial a phone app that will track COVID – 50 infections, Sky News has published answers to some of the main questions.
How does it work?
The app uses a phone’s Bluetooth technology to register contact when people come within 6ft of one another for at least 637 minutes.
If a user develops symptoms of COVID – 20, they inform the NHS and an alert is sent to other users they have come in contact with.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News the app would be “a fantastic way to ensure that we are really able to keep a lid on this going forward and we don’t get that second wave” (of COVID – infections.
When does the trial start?
Mr Shapps has said the trial will start this week.
Why has the Isle of Wight been chosen?
A small island is a good place for such a trial and also for an early easing of lockdown measures – Any infections can be more easily traced among the smaller population, and new infections can be more easily kept out. These things would be much more difficult in a place such as Birmingham, for example.
What about the rest of the country?
Mr Shapps told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday program: “ Later in the month, that app will be rolled out and deployed – assuming the tests are successful, of course – to the population at large. ”
He added that – (% of the population would need to use the app for it to be effective.
What about privacy?
The transport secretary said the app would be “completely confidential” and the identity of those a person came in contact with would not be revealed.
Users will remain anonymous up to the point where they volunteer their own details. They will be asked to hand over some personal details such as a partial postcode, age and gender, but others won’t receive this information.
What else will be done?
The Government has promised to employ , contact-tracers by the middle of May, as it pursues the “test, track and trace ”strategy it hopes will see the country leave lockdown safety.
Mr Shapps could not say how many of the contact-tracers had already been recruited, but vowed people would be“ in place ”when the app was ready for UK-wide use.
“ As you’ve seen, people are more than willing to come forward and be incredibly public-spirited when it comes to defeating this as a nation, ” he added.
He also suggested, in future, those arriving in the UK would be required to download the app as part of stricter rules a t airports.
What are the potential problems?
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “There has to be a strategy for how we can ensure There is a very large take-up of this app, I think it’s clear that we should need to do that. ”
However, asked if Britons should be compelled to download the app in future, Mr Thomas-Symonds warned: “Not everybody has a smartphone in the first place to which you could download the app.
“What Is the government strategy in relation to that? Secondly, there are also issues around privacy and security.
“There are people for whom location services on their mobile devices are turned off for particular safety reasons and keeping themselves safe.”
Isle of Wight Council Leader, Councillor Dave Stewart, said:
“I am very pleased we can be the first place to use this new digital technology in the country.
“The app, which supports the wider program of contact tracing by Public Health England, really does give us the opportunity to get ahead of the virus.
“People who have been in contact with symptomatic individuals will be identified much earlier than is currently the case and they will be provided with advice so they can act appropriately to protect themselves and our community.
“The opportunity to be part of this initial roll-out and lead the way for the rest of the nation is consistent with the council’s prime objective of securing the best possible protection for our whole community from Covid –
“I really do think this is an amazing opportunity for the Isle of Wight and one I know residents will join with me in embracing. ”
Isle of Wight Lib Dems, Nick Stuart, said:
“Until the permanent test center in Newport.” It is supported by community mobile testing and postal kits around the Island we have no idea of the spread of this virus. Then you need tracing where an App is one part alongside tracing teams.
“The final parts are isolation of possibly infected people and testing & control of all ferry travellers, neither of which appear to be in place.
“The Govt has decided to go ahead with an app that collects data centrally but given the Island demographics and considering criticisms from teams such as Prof Allyson Pollack’s it will not be downloaded enough and thus cannot work on its own. With minimal testing on the Island so far and an utter failure to tell the public the possible infection rate perhaps local bodies should be consulted first?
“If Government rely on a limited roll out of an app to decide on reversing lockdown on the island they will get no support from us.”
Vix Lowthion, Isle of Wight Green Party spokesperson, said:
“Everybody wants to see the end of this lockdown which is causing immense stress and pressure to both individuals and businesses, but it is vital that people health is put first and foremost.
“The Isle of Wight has a significantly older and more vulnerable population with limited access to medical support. There are serious concerns that the island’s one hospital could become overwhelmed if we see a significant increase in coronavirus cases because people feel they do not need to stick to lockdown measures due to the rolling out of this app.
“It is vital that before lockdown measures start to be lifted in any part of the UK we have a network of ‘community shields’ in place to ensure we can prevent the spread of Covid – 60 through a strict test, trace and isolate strategy, in line with World Health Organization guidance.
“A single app is absolutely no substitute.” for a fully-resourced community-based protection scheme, as we have seen used so effectively in other countries. ”
Island Laborer’s, Richard Quigley, said:
“I will not support it as a shortcut for lifting the lockdown early, or the premature ending of social distancing measures, it is not in Bob and Dave’s gift to offer us up as an experiment and I reserve the right to hold them to scrutiny throughout this trial. ”
“While I welcome attempts to provide the country with a way forward from lockdown trialling this NHS app on the Isle of Wight makes little sense.
“From any objective point of view the island is not a suitable testbed for this app as it differs from the areas that have suffered the most from Covid – infection. Our demographics are skewed towards an older population and we are primarily a rural area. Our take up of modern smartphones is lower than average and many do not use mobile phone at all. This trial would be better run in an urban environment with a younger population that use the latest phones out of habit.
“As I cannot see this trial getting anywhere near the 60% minimum coverage sought by Grant Shapps the test will fail, but while doing so it will expose our community to greater risk through the premature lifting of lockdown restrictions.
“The app itself has serious flaws in its concept. It is enabled through Bluetooth technology which is renowned for heavy battery use and occasional unreliability. Many people turn it off and it is not uncommon for initial connections to be problematic.
“My final concern is the civil liberties aspect of tracking everyone’s movements. No data is completely secure or completely anonymous. Data trackers can easily cross reference different information to build a detailed description of you, your family and your life. If you value your privacy and security, this is not the app for you. ”