UK ditches homegrown COVID-19 tracing app to use Google-Apple model

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will change to the Apple and Google mannequin for its COVID-19 test-and-trace app, ditching an try to develop an app by itself after the homegrown system didn’t work nicely sufficient on Apple’s iPhone, the federal government mentioned on Thursday.

The test-and-trace programme is essential to reopening the nation however has been dogged by issues. A smartphone app developed by the National Health Service (NHS) was initially anticipated to be rolled out nationwide in May however didn’t materialise.

Health minister Matt Hancock appeared in charge Apple partially for the pivot, including that the decentralised Google-Apple system would profit from work achieved on the abortive NHS app.

“As it stands, our app won’t work because Apple won’t change their system, but it can measure distance. And their app can’t measure distance well enough, to a standard we are satisfied with,” he mentioned on the day by day information convention.

“So we’ve agreed to join forces with Google and Apple, to bring the best bits of both systems together.”

Dido Harding, head of the test-and-trace programme has described the app because the “cherry on the cake” of the general test-and-trace system, enjoying down its centrality to the programme.

But figures for the second week of England’s test-and-trace confirmed that whereas over 85,000 individuals who had examined optimistic for the brand new coronavirus had been reached within the first two weeks, over 25% of optimistic circumstances couldn’t be reached.

Officials operating the programme admitted that the change of tack on the app was unplanned however denied that it was a setback, emphasising that they didn’t need to rush out an app which fell wanting requirements.

But the opposition Labour occasion mentioned that warnings in regards to the homegrown app had not been heeded.

“This is unsurprising and yet another example of where the government’s response has been slow and badly managed. It’s meant precious time and money wasted,” Labour well being spokesman Jon Ashworth mentioned.

Britain’s adoption of the ‘decentralised’ method for its app adopted a rising variety of European nations, together with Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

But Apple and Google’s mannequin has annoyed governments, as they undercut the expertise’s usefulness by prioritising consumer privateness.

A 3D printed Google brand is positioned on the Apple Macbook on this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The pivot occurred after the NHS app, which was being examined on the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England, was discovered to work nicely on Google’s Android working techniques however not on Apple iPhones.

However, Britain desires additional enhancements to the Google-Apple platform, that means that the unique hope of a launch in May is about to be missed by months reasonably than weeks.

“We’re not going to put a date on it I’m afraid because I’m absolutely determined that whilst this technology can help, it’s got to be working effectively,” Hancock mentioned.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; further reporting by Costas Pitas and William James; modifying by Estelle Shirbon and Jonathan Oatis


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