Privatised pandemic? UK’s celebrated Covid-19 tracing app won’t accept test results from NHS hospitals, leaves users frustrated
Britons who downloaded the newly-released NHS coronavirus app were shocked to learn that they could not submit test results from a National Health Service hospital or government-run lab, defeating the entire purpose of the app.
Released two days ago, the mobile application was hailed as an effective way of monitoring and containing the spread of coronavirus. An aggressive marketing campaign was launched to encourage citizens to enroll in the voluntary track and trace program, but it now appears that the app may be less useful than originally advertised.
“If your test took place in a Public Health England or NHS Hospital, or as part of national surveillance testing conducted by the Office of National Statistics, test results cannot currently be linked with the app whether positive or negative,” read a message from the app’s official Twitter account.
Wow! The #AppScandal continues.@doctor_oxford: “The govt’s “NHS” Covid app only wants to know about Serco/private testing.If you had a test in an NHS or PHE lab, you literally cannot enter the result on the app.” #Covid_19#COVID19#coronavirus#Covid#Coronapic.twitter.com/unIObW5Uqu— Stefan Simanowitz (@StefSimanowitz) September 26, 2020
The stunning admission means that more than 60,000 tests administered on Friday in hospitals and PHE labs don’t come with codes and aren’t compatible with the app, Sky News reported.
The glaring oversight means that those who test negative at an NHS facility will be unable to inform the app that they don’t have the virus, and as a result, even healthy people will be ordered to self-quarantine.
A Department of Health spokesman said they were working to fix the issue, but noted that the test status would be automatically updated if the test is booked through the app.
The error seems to have galvanized opposition lawmakers who have been critical of the Tory government’s response to the health crisis. Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth expressed bafflement at the app’s flaw.
“[H]ave 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??” he asked.
Users wondered if the government has “privatised a pandemic.”
The NHS test and trace is app which is run by a private firm and not the NHS does not accept tests done by the NHS only by the private firm so we have entered the dystopian future where the tory government have privatised a pandemic. pic.twitter.com/BGtYgLIzl6— TechnicallyRon (@TechnicallyRon) September 26, 2020
I try my best to be supportive of the government and its initiatives on the rare occasions they make sense - and it still makes sense to download the app - but my God they make it difficult. Specifically, who decided it’s ok for the NHS app to be incompatible with NHS tests? https://t.co/FdevxB6ILB— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) September 26, 2020
Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier praised the new mobile phone app as an “important step forward” in the country’s fight against the virus. The app asks people to enter a code that they receive after being tested, which is used to identify whether the individual tested positive or not. Users are asked to self-isolate for two weeks if they test positive or if the app determines they have come in close contact with someone with the virus.
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