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Minister suggests winter wait for coronavirus app

NHS Covid-19 app

A government minister has said the NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app is “not a priority” and he was not sure it would be out by winter.

The app, which has been trialled on the Isle of Wight, was initially expected to launch nationally weeks ago.

Lord Bethell, the Minister for Innovation at the Department of Health and Social Care, said he was unable to give a date for its launch.

But he insisted that the trial “has gone very well indeed”.

He was responding to questions at the Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

“We are seeking to get something going for the winter, but it isn’t the priority for us at the moment,” Lord Bethell said in answer to a question about the app.

He admitted that was “an expectation of management answer, saying I can’t give you a date”.

Lord Bethell said it was still the government’s intention to launch it at some point.

He also added that the trial on the Isle of Wight had shown that some people preferred humans to do the contact tracing.

“There is a danger of it being too technological and relying too much on text and emails, and alienating or freaking out people – because you’re peddling quite alarming news through quite casual communication,” he said.

Since the launch of the trial phase six weeks ago, there have been few official updates about any expected timeline, and reports that ministers are considering switching systems.

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