UK’s COVID-19 app has sent one venue alert, despite reports of rising infection rates

It was supposed to be at the heart of the UK government’s fight against coronavirus – but after months of delays it has emerged that the NHS COVID-19 app has sent just one alert over a potentially infected venue.

Despite rapidly rising numbers of cases, especially in cities in the north of England, Sky News said the app has sent one alert about a coronavirus outbreak at a venue since its launch two weeks ago.

It’s the latest in a series of IT foul-ups that have dogged the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus.

Earlier this month it emerged that nearly 16,000 positive test results had not been recorded centrally because Public Health England was using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that could not handle the large amount of information coming from regional labs.

Pubs and bars are expected to be closed in the affected parts of the country and the absence of targeted venue alerts raises questions about the government’s strategy, Sky News reported.

The app has been downloaded 16 million times, thanks in part to its QR code scanner.

This is built-in to the app in addition to the contact tracing system that tells users whether or not they have come close to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Shadow health minister Chi Onwurah told Sky: “On the one hand, at a government briefing on local data I’m told pubs are the primary location for common COVID exposure, on the other that the contact-tracing app has only sent out one alert about an outbreak in a venue.

“There is a plain contradiction there and ministers need to get a grip.”

The Department of Health said the system is in its infancy and is not expected to be used frequently.

Coronavirus cases are spiralling out of control across the UK, with numbers of cases not seen since the national lockdown in March.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is set to reveal a three-tier lockdown system today, although some members of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) reportedly think that he should already have imposed a national “circuit breaker” lockdown.

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.