• Jenrick says government willing to adapt track-and-trace app and “move to a different model” if it needs to
  • Follows concerns about the UK app, which is being trialled on the Isle of Wight  
  • However he says government is ’not developing a second app’ 

The government is “learning lessons” from other covid-19 contact tracing apps being used around the world and will adapt its own if necessary, a cabinet minister has said.

Housing, communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick told The Andrew Marr Show this morning that as far as he was aware, the government was not developing a second track-and-trace app.

However the minister said government was “paying attention” to what is being tested and developed in other countries, and that its current app was only at the piloting stage. 

It follows reports that NHSX has commissioned work on another app following concerns about the first, including problems highlighted by HSJ. The Financial Times said the alternative work was making use of technology jointly developed by Apple and Google with the purpose of covid-19 tracking and tracing — this is not used in the app currently being trialled.

Mr Jenrick said: “We have an app that is being rolled out on the Isle of Wight but we are also paying attention to what is happening elsewhere in the world.

“This is a pilot in the Isle of Wight. We are trying to get as many people to sign up to it as possible [and] we have around 50,000 people who have downloaded it.”

Mr Jenrick was asked specifically three times by host Andrew Marr on whether the government is developing a second app, before adding: “As far as I’m aware, we’re not developing a second app but we are paying attention to other apps that exist elsewhere in the world.

“If we need to adapt our app, or move to a different model, obviously we will do.”

HSJ revealed last week that the government’s coronavirus contact tracing app had so far failed the tests it needed to pass to be included in the NHS app library. Others have raised concerns about functionality and privacy, but the government has strongly rejected suggestions it would use the app to track people.

Senior figures revealed that it had been difficult to assess it because the government was going about it in a “kind of hamfisted way”.