News of the NHSX Contact Tracing App has been widespread across the national and international news, with pundits sharing their views on the new Coronavirus ‘test, race and track’ programme launched on the Isle of Wight this week.
Local politicians have featured on various news programmes, and share their views for Isle of Wight readers.
Labour: Practical issues require clarification
Isle of Wight Labour say this letter below, sent by Richard Quigley to the MP, sums up Labour’s position following a meeting with Bob Seely and David Pugh on Monday prior to launch of the App.
“We at the Labour Party are very conscious that the 18,000 Islanders who voted Labour at the last election are unrepresented on the Isle of Wight Council, and as you and David Pugh noted, it is important on matters such as this to seek views from all in our community.
“As I explained, I don’t have any objection to the app in principle, although there are some practical or technical issues about which I would welcome clarification. In particular, concerns surrounding the issue of false positives and negatives, and how the system might be carefully accessed by younger people. You kindly agreed to facilitate further discussions with the NHS to explore these issues further.
“Once the App is up and running, I think Islanders deserve to be regularly updated with general information on its use, and how it is helping to test, trace and isolate cases of Covid-19.
“Most importantly, we agreed that it is essential to be clear in our messaging, that the app is not an electronic vaccine, and downloading the app does not suspend social distancing guidance for the user. Nor is this a precursor to lifting lockdown restrictions on the Island prior to the mainland. It is a trial which might refine the software to be more useful in the future. It will be important to ensure that national politicians and media understand that.
“Clear communication is in all our interests, I look forward to further discussions in due course.”
Bob Seely posted a copy of his response to Richard Quigley on Facebook
Lib Dems: Questions over data privacy and security need to be answered
Chairman of Isle of Wight Liberal democrats, Nick Stuart, told OnTheWight,
“We support the use of app technology in principle. Apps have transformed much of modern life and it would be wrong to ignore their potential. But it would also be wrong to assume that they are the solution to everything.
“There are still big questions about the government’s approach to test, track and trace, which go beyond questions about the App itself.
“It is welcome that downloading the App is voluntary. This is the way to build public confidence. There must be no attempt to shame those who might not want to download it.
“The government must use the period of the trial to fully answer every question being put about data privacy and security, and that it is only being used for its stated purpose – tackling the Coronavirus public health crisis. For example, no additional location data should be collected unless this is absolutely essential to managing our response to the virus. Finally it must meet NHS app standards.
“This App can only work if it is as part of a much wider approach to this disease. That approach must include:
- Testing of the wider public by mobile stations and postal kits. Especially as studies show that a third to a half of transmission is from people without symptoms.
- Tracing alongside this App by local Public Health Tracing teams through the Council and local NHS, which makes best use of local knowledge and experience. Centralised call centre tracing by Serco on the mainland is a poor second best.
- Isolation management and support for suspected and tested Covid 19 sufferers including people who do not show signs of the disease.
- Management and diagnostic checking by Public Health teams for Ferry travellers and isolation or quarantine if needed.
“Public confidence is critical to a successful development of this tool. This means much better engagement by the government with the public. We also need fuller information – the latest release on a wider team tracing approach and ferry companies approaches are still frustratingly poor on detail.
“Much will be learned from the trial. It is crucial that government is open and honest about what it learns – disclosing both what is successful and what problems have been found, as well as properly documented dealing of security concerns over collection and storage of data. And there must be a promise that data will be retained for the minimum period needed and destroyed after a set time.”
Green Party: Must be supported through ‘real life’ contact tracers
Isle of Wight Green party spokesperson Vix Lowthion told OnTheWight,
“Everyone wants to feel like they are ‘doing their duty’ and fighting this virus, and I have much sympathy with this view. But whilst installing the App can help Islanders make a contribution towards the national effort, it urgently must be supported through a robust and comprehensive response of ‘real life’ contact tracers.
“Otherwise the vulnerable and isolated people of the Isle of Wight may be put at risk, by the false sense of security that an App could bring.
“No App is a replacement for a well resourced Public Health system, as evident in the countries with much lower positive coronavirus cases than the UK.
“Any trial of an App on the Isle of Wight must be part of a comprehensive review. This must include data and security concerns and other vital locally based Public Health services which will have to work alongside the technology, both on the Island and when it rolls out nationally.
“No app can eliminate the virus on its own.”