Pubs and restaurants are turning away customers who don’t have the Government’s ‘pathetic’ tracing app,’ – despite glaring errors that stopped thousands from logging their test results.
The beleaguered app’s latest fiasco came last night when it blocked up to 70,000 users from logging their test results.
The app relies on Bluetooth to determine if someone has been within two metres of an infectious person for 15 minutes, but other Bluetooth devices can interfere with the signal, generating a ‘false positive’.
To compound the problems, it has also transpired that the app doesn’t work on millions of older smartphones.
It also requires a code to register a completed test but it is only given if the test returns as positive.
Those with a negative test are only able to register their result if they booked directly through the app.
Despite the issues, Matt Hancock hailed the app as a success as he revealed more than 10 million people downloaded it since its launch on Thursday.
It comes as a further 5,693 people tested positive for coronavirus in the UK today – marking a 46 per cent rise on last Sunday’s total, with 17 deaths.
Matt Hancock’s new coronavirus tracing app was hit by another fiasco last night after it blocked tens of thousands of users from logging their test results
The Health Secretary said on social media it was an ‘absolutely fantastic’ response so far, and urged more people to download it.
Despite problems, pubs and restaurants are starting to bar customers from entering, unless they’ve downloaded the beleaguered app, with QR codes on display for punters to use.
Government advice tells businesses they ‘must’ display the ‘official NHS QR poster’ and apply for a code to be connected to the app.
One punter wrote on Twitter today: ‘Last night I was denied a meal because I didn’t have a Gvt phone app!!!!
‘You may think I’m being over dramatic but you must now get the point. What else are we soon going to be denied access to unless we have a government phone app. Please, please, please people wake up.’
Pubs and restaurants have started displaying QR codes to support the app, but punters have complained after they were denied entry for not installing it
Development of an earlier version of the app – which cost nearly £11million – stopped in June.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that six million people had downloaded the app the first day it launched, and this had since risen to 10 million by midday on Sunday.
More than 1.5 million venue check-ins were recorded on Saturday while more than 460,000 businesses have downloaded and printed QR code posters that can be scanned by the app to check-in to premises, it added.
Mr Hancock said: ‘The enthusiastic response of over 10m people downloading the app in just three days has been absolutely fantastic.
‘This is a strong start but we want even more people and businesses getting behind the app because the more of us who download it the more effective it will be.
Neath Port Talbot, Torfaen and the Vale of Glamorgan will be put under coronavirus lockdown from tomorrow
‘If you haven’t downloaded it yet I recommend you join the growing numbers who have, to protect yourself and your loved ones.’
One user, Chloe James, wrote: ‘I’m in a pub and apparently they’ve been told they can’t serve anyone unless they have the track and trace app.’
Hospitality expert Ollie Vaulkhard wrote today: ‘Perhaps you could also trust hospitality to work alongside the app, rather than the current disaster? No app details being taken by people on the street at 10:30pm.’
Last night, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said of the latest glitch: ‘This beggars belief.’
Other Labour politicians have lent their voice to the criticism.
David Lammy told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show this morning: ‘By Christmas we would have had the coronavirus for nine months, that we couldn’t get a test, track and trace system in place by then has got to be described as pathetic.’
Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens added: ‘The whole point of these local lockdowns, they’re happening because our test and trace system is not effective… the Government needs to get a grip on test and trace and isolate.’
Brits have encountered problems using the tracing app, while others who refuse to install it say they have been denied entry into pubs and restaurants
The government’s advice to pubs and restaurants reads: ‘By maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors, and displaying an official NHS QR poster, you will help NHS Test and Trace to identify and notify people who may have been exposed to the virus.
‘You must register for an official NHS QR code and display the official NHS QR poster.
Users, including NHS workers, have pointed out major flaws in the app that apparently drains battery and takes up space
‘The NHS COVID-19 app has a feature that allows users to quickly and easily ‘check in’ to your venue by scanning the code.
‘The information stays on the user’s phone. In England, you do not have to ask people who choose to ‘check in’ using the official NHS QR code to provide their contact details.
‘If there is an outbreak associated with a venue, a message will be sent to the relevant app users with the necessary public health advice.
‘This will help to avoid the reintroduction of lockdown measures and support the country to return to, and maintain, a more normal way of life.
‘In addition to maintaining and sharing records where requested and displaying an official NHS QR poster, you must also continue to follow other government guidance to minimise the transmission of COVID-19. This includes maintaining a safe working environment and following social distancing guidelines.’
The app has come under fire after it emerged that only ‘Pillar 2’ tests – those carried out by commercial testing centres – provide the relevant codes to allow users to enter their results.
Although people tested under ‘Pillar 1’ – the NHS and Public Health England – will still be contacted by NHS Test and Trace if they test positive, they could not log the result on the app and alert everyone they have been in close contact with.
After a flood of complaints yesterday, the Department of Health and Social Care said it was ‘urgently’ trying to fix the problem. Hours later it promised that ‘everyone who receives a positive test result can log their result on the app’ by requesting a code from NHS Test and Trace.
The latest official Government figures show that a total of 409,975 people have been tested in England since the app was rolled out on Thursday morning, including 128,960 Pillar 1 and 281,015 Pillar 2 tests.
The blunder means that the results of 31 per cent of the tests carried out on Thursday and Friday have not been logged.
The app relies on Bluetooth to determine if someone has been within two metres of an infectious person for 15 minutes, but other Bluetooth devices can interfere with the signal, generating a ‘false positive’
Although the exact numbers are unclear, it potentially means that hundreds of positive cases uncovered since the app’s official launch have not yet been registered.
The shocking oversight came to light only after a Twitter user asked how he could log his test result if he did not have a code.
In response, the official Twitter page for the NHS Covid-19 app said: ‘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.’
The reply was met with outrage online, with many users questioning why it was called an ‘NHS app’ when it did not recognise tests carried out by the NHS.
Last night, Mr Ashworth said: ‘This just beggars belief. How can this app be effective if someone is unable to link up their tests carried out by the NHS or tests carried out for surveillance? We all have an interest in this app working which is why we’ve promoted its uptake.
‘This weekend Ministers have thrown cash at promoting this app across local and national newspapers. They need to outline how they will quickly fix this flaw.’
Technology expert Benedict Evans told The Sunday Times: ‘A contact tracing app is based on people with a positive test entering that into the app. But the English app that just launched is incompatible with tests done by the NHS.
He added: ‘We’re six months into this and the UK still doesn’t have a unified test result system.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman 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 and the isolation countdown will be updated.’
The Welsh Government revealed it is an England-only issue. In a tweet yesterday after the Department of Health and Social Care statement, it said: ‘This issue doesn’t apply to Wales. We took the decision to link our all-Wales laboratory testing systems with the NHS Covid-19 app.’
Last week’s launch came after a fourth-month delay beset by technological problems.
A trial on the Isle of Wight had to be abandoned after the initial model failed to detect iPhones.