Thank you for contacting me about contact tracking and tracing measures for Coronavirus.
I fully support steps being taken to reduce the spread of Coronavirus through sensible social distancing and isolation measures where appropriate.
Mass testing and contact tracing are not, by themselves, solutions, but may allow some social restrictions to be relaxed faster by working to supress transition more precisely. The UK now has capacity to carry out over 100,000 tests per day, and the Government committed to increase capacity to 200,000 tests per day by the end of May.
The COVID-19 Test and Trace Taskforce programme will ensure that, when someone develops COVID-19-like symptoms, they can rapidly have a test to find out if they have the virus and people who they’ve had recent close contact with can be alerted and provided with advice. Part of the tracing effort will include a voluntary NHS contact tracing app; this will help increase the speed and effectiveness of the tracing effort.
The new contact tracing app is presently being trialled on the Isle of Wight, with members of the public able to download the app and record any symptoms from 7th May. As the test, track and trace programme rolls out nationally Public Health England will oversee the deployment of 18,000 additional contact tracers to support the programme.
My understanding is that at present there are no moves to make downloading an app compulsory. However, the more people who use it, the better informed the Government response will be. It will enable staff to understand the spread of the virus, as well as to get in touch with people who may be at risk.
I absolutely agree that it is important to protect people's privacy, which is why I am pleased that NHSX, the organisation developing the app, worked with the National Cyber Security Centre on ensuring adequate security levels are in place.
This programme is vital to the national effort to defeat Coronavirus, and I will continue to monitor it closely.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
With best wishes