Coronavirus app has only sent one alert about outbreak in venues since it started

The new NHS Covid-19 mobile phone application on an iPhone, after the app went live on Thursday morn

The new NHS Covid-19 mobile phone application on an iPhone, after the app went live on Thursday morning. - Credit: PA

The effectiveness of England and Wales’s coronavirus app is under the spotlight once again after it was reported that only one alert about an outbreak in a venue has been delivered since the service launched a fortnight ago.

People are able to scan codes on posters before entering venues such as pubs and restaurants using the app, allowing NHS Test and Trace to send an alert to anyone who has visited somewhere that experiences an outbreak.

The first Saturday after the app launched 1.5 million venue check-ins were recorded.

It was heralded as an important way to help contact tracing efforts, alongside separate Bluetooth contact tracing which keeps a log of individuals a person comes into close contact with.

But news that it has failed to alert users on almost all venue outbreaks has raised questions about it effectiveness.

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However the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it does not expect to send out alerts frequently from QR code check-ins.

Given that it became a legal requirement for certain venues in England to display QR code posters on September 24, DHSC said it would not yet expect to see large numbers of alerts having been sent out linked to outbreaks.

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The main benefit of the QR check-in feature is to serve as a digital diary that can be used as a memory prompt if a user is diagnosed with coronavirus and contacted by NHS Test and Trace, the department added.

“The NHS Covid-App is an important public health tool, downloaded more than 16 million times, which is helping to stop the spread of this virus,” a DHSC spokesman said.

“Alongside the app’s contact tracing features, the QR code check-in system performs a number of important functions, not least providing a digital diary for users to prompt them as to who they have been with should they test positive.“If health protection teams believe a venue is linked to an outbreak they may send a ‘warn and inform’ message to app users who attended the venue at a similar time based on when they checked in.”

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