Britain was poised on Monday to roll out a new smartphone tracing app for coronavirus on an island off England’s south coast, as the country looks to ease a six-week nationwide lockdown.
It is seen as a key part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to lift stay-at-home orders imposed in late March.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the app would be available to the island’s health professionals from Tuesday, before being rolled out to all of the island’s roughly 80,000 households later this week.
He said the app was part of the government’s new “test, track and trace” strategy that aimed “to hunt down and isolate the virus so it’s unable to reproduce”.
Britain is one of the worst-hit countries in the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing another 288 deaths on Monday to take the death toll to 28,734 — the third-highest globally and almost on a par with second-placed Italy.
Johnson said last week the country was “past the peak” of the outbreak but not yet ready to move out of lockdown.
The measures — which are assessed at three-week intervals — are set for review on Thursday, but the British leader is not expected to set out his proposals for their easing until Sunday, according to media reports.
In the meantime, officials will assess how well the smartphone app performs on the Isle of Wight.
‘Stick with lockdown’
The app will be deployed alongside a newly recruited team of contact tracers, who will eventually number 18,000 nationwide, to help track down people identified by the tool as at-risk of having become infected.
Britons are currently being told to stay at home unless they need to work, buy essentials, or take daily exercise, but they must stay at least two meters away from other people.
No date for reopening schools has yet been decided, a spokesman for Johnson told reporters.