A major tenet of medicine is: first, do no harm. But can this be said for the NHS Covid Test and Trace app, which has not only generated fear among the public, but led to unnecessary shortages of doctors and nurses on the frontline?
The Chancellor suggested today that the app could be altered due to the mounting frustration that millions of Britons could needlessly be pinged into isolation this summer. But tweaking the app doesn’t go far enough. It’s time we removed this symbol of subservience to the state once and for all.
I, myself, chose not to download the app. To me, it felt like a high-tech version of Stasi State surveillance. And I am not alone. Over the course of the pandemic, more than three quarters of adults have been blissfully sheltered from the consequences of being “pinged” – either because they haven’t got a compatible smartphone or because they, like me, never downloaded the app in the first place.
According to the latest NHS Covid-19 contact tracing figures, the number of people who were sent alerts this week has risen to more than 356,036, up by 60 per cent on the week ending 30 June. Yet, it is clear that the app has had a negligible impact on curbing the rise of Covid levels.
We already know from previous waves that when there is an exponential growth in cases, contact tracing struggles to keep up. Even SAGE has acknowledged that when there is sustained transmission in the UK, contact tracing is no longer helpful.
New figures show that around one in eight of those transferred to the Test and Trace system after testing positive for Covid were not reached in the week ending June 30th – the greatest proportion since the peak of this winter’s second wave, and comes as the number of people testing positive rose to its highest total for nearly five months. Despite this, over £40bn has been spent merely to splash numbers over Gov.uk’s digital dashboard.
But if self-isolation was the solution to eradicating this virus, Covid would have been eliminated more than a year ago.
Now that cases are rising once again, there are reports NHS staff are deleting the Covid tracing app in order to stay on the front line. NHS Trusts are pleading for their doctors and nurses to be exempted from self-isolation rules before August when the rules are scheduled to end.
Businesses have warned that the app is already causing unprecedented levels of worker absences, particularly in hospitality, sparking worries that some venues will be forced to close after July 19th.
If Covid cases do hit 100,000 a day, as predicted, millions of people could be forced to self-isolate each week by August, exacerbating staff shortages and dampening any chance of a big bang reopening. The public may stay away from night clubs and pubs if they think one night out could lead to ten nights in.
The expectation is that medicine should be evidence-led. Yet the Government continues to enforce arbitrary and intrusive public health policies while disregarding the alarms being raised by senior clinicians and business leaders who are not aligned with the fear agenda of the doomsayers on SAGE.
Instead of risking the entrapment of millions of healthy people in their homes this summer, we should be scrapping the NHS app altogether, and only those who test positive for Covid should have to isolate.
My advice to people experiencing high levels of nervousness due to fear of being “pinged” and having to self isolate is to remove the app from your phone and take full advantage of your inalienable freedoms.