As COVID-19 cases rise in the U.K., the government has said some users of its new track and trace app cannot log their test results using the software.
The NHS COVID-19 app was launched in England and Wales on Thursday, with the intention of warning people if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The situation came to light after an NHS COVID-19 app user named Damian Burkhill asked its Twitter account why he was unable to input his coronavirus test result. “I had a test and wanted to put the result in the app but it asks for a code. However the text and email with the result does not have a code!!!????” he wrote.
The NHS COVID-19 app account responded that “test results cannot currently be linked with the app” if they were carried at a lab run by Public Health England (PHE) (an arm of the Department of Health and Social Care); a hospital of the publicly-funded healthcare system the National Health Service (NHS); or as part of national surveillance testing by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the U.K.’s independent national statistical institute.
After the tweet gained interest, Welsh Labour and Co-Operative politician tweeted that app users in his country could process results from Public Health Wales (an NHS health system).
The apparent oversight could amount to around a third of tests carried out in England on Friday not being included in the app’s system. In total, 210,275 people were tested in England on Friday, according to the U.K. government figures, including 61,481 in hospitals and PHE labs, and 148,894 in testing centers.
Jonathan Ashworth, a Labour MP and shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, quoted the NHS COVID-19 app message, tweeting: “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??”
In a safu of a similar vein, BBC News reported on Saturday that people in England who test negative for the coronavirus cannot share the result on the app if the screening was not booked through the software. The Department for Health and Social Care told the broadcaster the app would be updated.
The app was launched as the U.K. attempts to gain control of its worsening coronavirus outbreak. On Friday, the ONS said reported weekly cases had almost doubled in the week ending 19 September, from an estimated 59,800 between September 4 to 10, up to 103,600. That means around 1 in 500 people had the virus between September 13 to 19.
All ages groups were affected by the spike in cases, but 17 to 24 year olds in particular. The regions of the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, London, and the North East had high infection rates, with the West and East Midlands showing a small increase.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the U.K. has reported 425,775 coronavirus cases, and 42,025 deaths.
Newsweek has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England via email, and the NHS COVID-19 app via Twitter.
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