May 21, 2020 / 5:13 PM / 6 days ago

UK test and trace system is on course for June 1 - health minister

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock holds the daily coronavirus disease news conference at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain May 21, 2020. Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s health minister said the health service’s COVID-19 smartphone app was working on the Isle of Wight, where it is being trialled, and the country’s test and trace operation would be ready to launch on June 1 when the lockdown is further eased.

“We are absolutely clear that the test and trace system needs to be in place, and that is on track for delivery on 1 June,” Matt Hancock said on Thursday.

“The app is working in the Isle of Wight. We want to make sure this whole system lands well and supports the ability safely to make changes to social distancing rules.”

Britain’s tracing coordinator John Newton said the app would complement conventional contact-tracing, which was used in the early stage of Britain’s pandemic before being abandoned as the numbers of cases soared.

“We are ready to go with that system,” he said.

The app was an additional component, he said, which could alert a user who had been in contact with somebody who had a risk of passing on coronavirus.

“They are distinct but complementary, and it is perfectly OK, in fact possibly advantageous, to introduce one before the other,” he added.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Alistair Smout, Writing by Paul Sandle; editing by Stephen Addison

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