'Delete NHS Covid app', says public health professor

23 July 2021, 17:06

By Tim Dodd

Public health professor Allyson Pollock says it would be 'much better' if the public deleted the NHS Covid app and the government instead focused on symptomatic testing and isolation.

The conversation comes as the UK Government releases a list of 16 sectors where 'critical workers' can avoid self-isolation if they are told to quarantine by the NHS Covid app.

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows the number of people with Covid-19 in the UK continues to rise, with an estimated 750,000 people in England having contracted the virus last week.

Speaking with Eddie Mair, Professor Pollock said: "I don't think the R number is very helpful actually and I think we need to look at what's happening in the round.

"The more you test the more cases you're going to find of course, and the government's got a strategy of mass testing, and that combined with the NHS app means you've got quite a lot of irrationality going on with many hundreds of thousands of people having to isolate unnecessarily.

"And that's because the public health strategy is just not fit for purpose at the moment. It would be much better if the government stopped mass testing... and that people deleted the app and focused instead on telling people with symptoms to stay at home and have tests."

Professor Pollock continued: "The benefits of testing casual contacts or even isolating them is very, very minimal. So it's much more likely to be beneficial if direct household contacts isolate."

Eddie asked: "You think the app is counterproductive now?"

Read more: Amber list: What are the new rules for holidays and which countries are on it?

"I don't think it's particularly useful as a measure," Prof Pollock replied.

"Basically we've got a very incoherent health strategy that's been driven by the fact the government has committed to spending billions of pounds on lateral flow tests which are not particularly effective. It's extremely expensive, and as we know, have been doing harms."

Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed today another Covid variant has been identified in the UK, named B.1.621.

So far, 16 cases of the variant have been confirmed across the country, with the majority connected with overseas travel.

Read more: Hundreds of flights to Greece and Spain set for this weekend after amber list rules change

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