52 Per Cent of Young Britons Delete or Don’t Use NHS Covid Tracing App Properly: Poll

The newly launched contact tracing app, which uses Bluetooth technology to alert users if they spend 15 minutes or more within two metres (six feet) of another user who subsequently tests positive for the nove coronavirus COVID-19, is pictured on a smartphone in London on September 24, 2020. - The …

More than half, 52 per cent, of young Britons have downloaded the NHS’s COVID-19 app and then either deleted it, switched it off, or avoided checking in. The polling figures come as the UK is set to face a “pingdemic” of people told to isolate at home because they were in proximity to someone infected with the Chinese coronavirus.

The National Health Service’s Covid-19 contact tracing app uses Bluetooth technology to log whether you have come in contact with someone else with the same app who has been diagnosed with coronavirus and sends alerts that can include recommendations to self-isolate. The app can also be used to check into venues, which was a mandatory requirement for service in restaurants and pubs before July 19th’s ‘Freedom Day’.

According to a poll published on Tuesday by YouGov, 40 per cent of Britons never downloaded it in the first place. Of those that did, only 22 per cent say they are using it correctly, with 24 per cent saying they have either switched off the contact tracing and/or avoided checking in at venues, while 10 per cent deleted the app completely.

The highest proportion of those who have deleted it, 17 per cent, are those aged 18 to 24. That same age bracket also had the highest proportion who said they still have the app but are intentionally misusing it in some way, including turning off the contact tracing (15 per cent), have avoided checking in at venues where it was required (10 per cent), or have done both (10 per cent). They also have the lowest proportion admitting that they are using the app correctly (nine per cent).

Though only a poll and not official figures, it matches recent reporting of a “rising number” of people deleting the app, including NHS staff.

The findings were published as the UK is facing a so-called ‘pingdemic’, whereby as restrictions are lifted, and more people interact, there will be a sharp increase in those with the NHS app told to isolate, risking businesses shutting down and disruption to services. In the first week of this month, the NHS app pinged more than 500,000 people. Last week, more than one million children were off school for coronavirus-related reasons, including 773,700 who were self-isolating due to possible contact with a covid case in school and 160,300 who came into contact with a possible case outside of school.

Amidst the pingdemic, government ministers have reportedly been writing to companies who have concerns about their operational viability with the risk of so many staff being forced into isolation, telling them that people are not legally obliged to quarantine if an app tells them to.

According to information obtained by The Times, Investment Minister Lord Grimstone of Boscobel told one large employer the app was only an “advisory tool” and there was no “legal duty” to isolate. The Guardian notes that while following instructions to self-isolate from the NHS’s test and trace personnel is a legal requirement, following the app’s instructions is not enforceable, a distinction the government has only made clear in public recently.

While Business Minister Paul Scully also said that it was not mandatory to self-isolate if pinged, telling Times Radio on Tuesday that the app allowed people “to make informed decisions”.

“I think by backing out of mandating a lot of things, we’re encouraging people to really get the data in their own hands to be able to make decisions on what’s best for them, whether they’re employer or an employee,” he said.

Downing Street reacted this afternoon by saying that people pinged by the app should still quarantine, with a spokesman saying: “Isolation remains the most important action people can take to stop the spread of the virus. Given the risk of having and spreading the virus when people have been in contact with someone with Covid it is crucial people isolate when they are told to do so, either by NHS test and trace or by the NHS Covid app.

“Businesses should be supporting employees to isolate, they should not be encouraging them to break isolation.”

The hardline by Number 10 follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatening to introduce mandatory vaccine passports for entry into large venues like nightclubs, in a bid to pressure younger people into getting vaccinated — a demographic already resistant to using the Covid-19 app.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.