Last month, the British government made an announcement that it has opted to abandon its bespoke coronavirus contact tracing app in favour of the alternatives provided by Google and Apple. Preliminary trials have reportedly shown an alarmingly high rate of inaccuracy. Based on their findings, there was a huge discrepancy between those on Android and iOS that was attributed to technical issued with the devices’ Bluetooth. Until now, the National Health Service (NHS) has not confirmed the final release date.
Earlier this week, the House of Lords science committee had a discussion with NHS Improvement Conservative peer and chair Baroness Dido Harding, reports the Independent. “Technology development paths do not run in a smooth and linear way and so we’re keen not to commit to a specific date as the technology development work is ongoing,” said the project lead as she was unable to provide even an estimated timeframe for completion.
The controversial SARS-CoV-2 contact tracing app is being developed by the NHSX – a government unit of the United Kingdom established by health secretary Matt Hancock – with the help of a £12 million grant. Despite the evident difficulties encountered by the team behind it, Harding still believes that it will “play an important role” in the fight against COVID-19. In addition to her claims, Ocado chief product officer and former Apple executive Simon Thompson agree that the NHSX made the right call.
Their goal is to create a platform that does not rely on the framework used by Android and iOS. “There are three elements that we believe the functionality needs to work to a really good standard. One of them is around contact reliability,” he noted. “The second one is around distance and time measurement. These are the three critical inputs that are required to produce a reliable risk score.”
According to Harding, “The introduction of the app is urgent and important, but it must be a product that the users can trust.” She likewise pointed out that the app provides digital assistance to monitor reported cases of COVID-19. However, the cooperation of people will ultimately help reduce the transmission rate of the 2019 novel coronavirus.