Brits deleting contact tracing app to avoid having to selfisolate

A poll has revealed that many Brits are deleting the contact tracing app in order to avoid the risk of being asked to self-isolate.

The behavior is in part enabled by an odd decision around digital COVID vaccine passports …

Background

England and Wales have two different NHS apps. The NHS COVID-19 app uses the joint Apple/Google API for detecting exposure to the virus, and also for checking in to venues like restaurants, bars, and theaters by scanning a QR code. Such check-ins will no longer be required from next week.

However, a separate NHS App is the one that includes the NHS COVID Pass, the digital vaccination passport needed to gain entry to some events. As of Monday, nightclubs are being “urged” to ask people to show their pass or proof of a recent negative test before allowing entry, though this is a guideline rather than a legal requirement. Some other venues have already confirmed they will be adopting this approach.

Having the vaccine passport in a separate app from the contact tracing one means it’s simple for people to delete the NHS COVID-19 app while still being able to show proof of double vaccination.

A nationally representative poll of more than 2,000 UK adults showed that around 20% have already deleted the contact tracing app, reports The Guardian.

The highest deletion rate was seen among 18- to 34-year-olds, where more than a third have done so, and about a quarter more plan to do so once lockdown restrictions end. The reason is likely because there is a four-week period in which lockdown rules cease to apply, but you are still asked to self-isolate if your contact tracing app alerts you.

  • July 19: Most lockdown restrictions end, but self-isolation after a positive contact still applies.
  • August 16: Self-isolation no longer applies for those who’ve been double-vaccinated.

One government advisor said that deletions were because people expect infection rates to rise significantly when lockdown ends.

“We know both that the number of people downloading the NHS Covid-19 app was never as high as desired and that some people who downloaded it have already deleted it,” said Prof Henry Potts, of University College London, who specialises in the use of technology in healthcare […]

He added that while he did see strong evidence that people were acting on an expectation of increased caseloads after 19 July, “what will happen is that the more the app presents an inconvenience for people and the more they see Covid-19 as less of an issue, then the more likely they will be to stop using the app.”

The government has already weakened the app so that a higher exposure risk is needed to generate an alert.

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