One of the scientists who developed the NHS Covid app has pleaded with people not to delete it to avoid the risk of having to self-isolate.
There have been more than 1.2 million ‘pings’ in the last couple of weeks but Professor Christophe Fraser assured users: ‘It might not feel like it right now, but this app is your ally.’
The chief scientific advisor for the app said it was helping to reduce new cases and hospitalisations every day and getting rid of it for short term gain will only risk further restrictions down the line.
Ministers have been scrambling to put plans in place to avert a ‘pingdemic’ amid warnings staff shortages are causing disruption in critical sectors.
The government has introduced an exemption scheme for some double-jabbed workers in key industries, as well as increased daily testing for emergency service staff and at supermarket supply depots.
But the man behind the app said the number of people being contacted shows that it is working and helping slow the pandemic, despite people’s understandable ‘frustration’.
He told the Daily Mirror: ‘Like many people, I am enjoying more freedom and would be annoyed to now have to self-isolate.
‘But deleting the app is not a good move. As one of the scientists who designed it, I can tell you that the app does work and is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.
‘Our research showed that over the winter period, use of the app helped reduce the size of the epidemic by roughly 14% to 24%.
‘And it is still working now, preventing new cases and hospitalisations every day.’
A recent YouGov poll revealed around one in 10 users have deleted the app and a third of respondents admitted to having the bluetooth contact tracing function either switched off permanently or sometimes.
The University of Oxford expert rejected criticism that the app’s bluetooth signal is ‘too sensitive’, pointing out that data shows the number of people being contacted tracks the number of cases precisely.
He said: ‘Tweaking the app to make it less sensitive in the face of the more infectious Delta virus is not the right move because the app slows the epidemic, resulting in fewer cases.’
Prof Fraser also moved to allay people’s privacy fears, reminding people that the app is entirely anonymous with security built into the way it works.
The expert did signal he’d support an expansion in daily testing for vaccinated people as an alternative to a requirement to quarantine.
From August 16, double-jabbed people will no longer need to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact.
Prof Fraser added: ‘Deleting the app now might allow you to go away on holiday next week but if too many people choose to do that we could imperil future holidays for all of us.’
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