Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020

Coronavirus: NHS tracing app problem that left tens of thousands of tests unlogged has been fixed, government says

A problem that prevented tens of thousands of people from logging the result of their coronavirus tests on the new NHS contact-tracing app has been fixed, according to a Department of Health spokesman.

In a statement, they said: “Everyone who receives a positive test result can log their result on the app.

“A minority of people, such as hospital patients, who were unable to log their positive result can now request a code when contacted by NHS Test and Trace to input on their app.”

It came after the app’s developers admitted it had not been able to link more than 60,000 coronavirus tests carried out in England on Friday – just under a third of the total – to its systems.

The admission had appeared to undermine the central role of the software, which is to warn people when they have come into contact with anyone who subsequently tests positive.

The long-awaited NHS COVID-19 contact-tracing app launched on Thursday across England and Wales.

However, in a response to a tweet on Friday by a user who said they had been tested but could not upload the result because they had not received a code, the app’s developers said it was not linked to test results processed in Public Health England labs or NHS hospitals.

“If your test took place in a Public Health England lab or NHS hospital, or as part of national surveillance testing conducted by the Office for National Statistics, test results cannot currently be linked with the app whether they’re positive or negative,” they wrote.

Official government figures show a total of 210,275 people were tested in England on Friday, including 61,481 in hospitals and PHE labs (Pillar 1) and 148,894 in testing centres (Pillar 2).

The admission on the app’s official Twitter account would have meant the results of just under a third (29%) of the tests carried out a day after the app went live could not be linked.

An earlier statement from the Department of Health said: “We are urgently working to enable positive tests for people who aren’t already given a code to be added to the COVID-19 app.

“NHS Test and Trace will continue to contact people by text, email or phone if your test is positive advising you to self-isolate and for those who don’t have a code, the contact tracers will shortly be able to provide codes to insert in the app.

“If you book your test via the app the results will be automatically recorded in the app and the isolation countdown will be updated.”

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth had raised the issue on social media.

The shadow health secretary tweeted: “We all want to see this app succeed. We’ve encouraged people to download it.

“But have they really launched an app that doesn’t actually link to tests carried out by NHS hospital labs & PHE labs instead only including tests carried out via the outsourced lighthouse lab network??”

The Welsh government pointed out that Public Health Wales results can be processed and urged people to continue using the app.

Posting on Twitter, Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething urged people “shouting” that the app is “useless” to “please calm down”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called the new mobile phone app an “important step forward” in the UK’s fight against COVID-19.

The app includes a link to enter a code which people receive via email or text message from the testing service if they have tested positive for COVID-19.

It asks users to self-isolate for 14 days if it detects they were in close proximity to someone with coronavirus.

Those who are tested in a NHS hospital, PHE lab or under one of the surveillance studies, including the ONS, and test positive are currently contacted by NHS Test and Trace contact tracers by text, phone or email.

Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery, former chair of the ethics advisory board for the first edition of the app, said: “This is clearly a glitch. I imagine it won’t be that difficult to sort out, and the focus is on making sure the system is integrated.

“If they book the tests with the system they can feed them back into the app, clearly we haven’t yet got it right in terms of the other parts of the testing system being able to feed in and we would expect that to be sorted pretty quickly.”

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran told Sky News: “How on earth can we trust this government with our data with a test-trace isolate system that is meant to be the key to unlocking this country through this pandemic and keeping us all safe, when the very basics of the information that are meant to be given to this app, we find out over a tweet? It is just bizarre.”

Sky’s political correspondent Rob Powell said of the initial problem: “This could be a fairly serious blow to what was touted obviously by the prime minister as a world-beating test and trace system.

“To add insult to injury, this appears to be an England-only issue.”

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