Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that a “global” program to test and locate people suspected of having been in contact with people testing positive for COVID-19 would be in place by June 1.
Britain is currently testing the Bluetooth-based app on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, where the government says more than half of residents have downloaded it.
James Brokenshire, the junior interior minister in charge of security, said there were technical problems with the app, but that traditional measures would be used until it worked.
“The tracking and tracing system will be ready,” Brokenshire told Sky News.
“We obviously want to see that the app is set up correctly and efficiently, building on the experience on the Isle of Wight and processing any feedback we receive on some of the technical issues, to ensure that the application is as strong as possible. “
When asked directly if the system could work without the application, he replied, “Yes”.
Tracking and tracing infected people is considered essential to avoid a second deadly wave of the epidemic – and thus get the economy going after the lockdown.
But the British system has been hampered by critics: opposition lawmakers said an earlier promise of a national deployment of a smartphone app developed by the National Health Service (NHS) had slipped from the middle of this month.
The NHS Confederation, a group that represents health-care organizations, said the UK was risking a second skip of case without clarity on the government’s strategy.
“Relaxation of restrictions based on scientific advice is the right approach, but it must be accompanied by an effective test, monitoring and traceability strategy that allows us to monitor the local spread of the disease,” said the confederation. .
“To achieve this, we must have national, local and interagency involvement. Otherwise, we run the risk of a second wave of infections. “
When asked about a UK trial of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, the drug that US President Donald Trump says he takes, Brokenshire said that all of the drugs had been thoroughly tested. When asked if he would accept it, he said he felt there was no need to make such statements.
His comments come after Trump forbade Tuesday to take hydroxychloroquine to try to repel the new coronavirus despite medical warnings about its use.
“I am taking hydroxychloroquine,” said Trump, 73, May 18. “All I can tell you is that so far I seem to be fine. “
Brokenshire also said restrictions on foreign arrivals to Britain will be introduced early next month. He declined to give further details. (Report by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton; edited by Michael Holden, William Maclean)