Health officials in Wales turn to Irish after UK contact-tracing app no-show

Ireland’s coronavirus tracing app.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething has revealed that officials are in talks with health officials in Northern Ireland over the acquisition of a new contact-tracing app.

The app is due to launch in Northern Ireland within weeks, and has been developed based on the technology used in the Republic of Ireland.

The Welsh Government had signed up to participate in the NHS Covid-19 app, backed by the UK Government, which was meant to roll out in England in May.

That launch was subsequently moved to June before it was scrapped. An alternative designed by Apple and Google is now due to launch in the winter.

But the Republic’s Covid Tracker app launched successfully on 6 July was downloaded 1.3m times in eight days. It uses a smartphones’ Bluetooth connectivity to trace people who come into close contact with infected people.

Built-in collaboration with Apple and Google the app lets Android and iOS phones connect even while locked.

Information saved by the app is not held in a single official database, alleviating privacy concerns.

NearForm, the company behind the app, also launched a version in Gibraltar last month.

 

‘Adapting’

Mr Gething said an app would be a “useful addition” to contact tracing in Wales.

“If there is a viable UK wide app that works, and provides information into our system – as it will need to do to help assist contact tracing – we’d want to be part of it”, he added.

“If it works within one part of the NHS, then obviously there are questions for us about making use and adapting that here. We’re still not there in terms of making a decision.”

Despite the absence of an app currently, Mr Gething stressed the current tracing system in Wales was working well.

“The latest management information is that we’re getting to 88% of index cases,” he said.

“We’re getting to 80% of index cases within 24 hours. We’re getting to 89% of contacts index cases. We’re getting to 74% of those contacts within 24 hours as well.”

Public Health Wales has reported one further death from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours. The total number of deaths from the virus is now 1,548.

There were 22 new cases, meaning 16,987 people have now tested positive in Wales. PHW also confirmed 2,444 tests were carried on Tuesday.

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