The Government is abandoning efforts to develop its own coronavirus contact-tracing app in order to focus on technology from Apple and Google.
In a major U-turn, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Thursday that efforts would be targeted on developing a programme to support the NHS Test and Trace service based on the tech giants’ model.
But no date was being set for the roll-out, despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock having previously said the key app would be available in mid-May.
Labour said the U-turn was “yet another example” of the Government’s response to the crisis being “slow and badly managed”.
Officials said the Government’s app, which was being trialled on the Isle of Wight, was highly inaccurate when used on iPhones, only identifying around 4% of contacts, while the Apple-Google framework recorded 99% of all contacts.
They said they hoped to feed their research into the Apple-Google project, suggesting that the trialled app is superior when dealing with distances between individuals.
Baroness Harding, the executive chair of NHS Test and Trace and Matthew Gould, the chief executive of the NHSX technology wing of the health service, said there had been “specific technical challenges”.
“Our response to this virus has and will continue to be as part of an international effort,” they said in a joint statement.
Read more: UK government hands ‘tracing app’ to Apple and Google – as always planned