As countries around the world were launching their COVID-19 contact-tracing apps to the public, the UK was still trying to decide what its version of the tracker would actually look like. It wanted an independent, centralized approach, then it wanted to adopt Apple and Google’s framework — a U-turn decision that wasted three months’ of development work. Now, some app developers claim that NHSX — the unit responsible for the since-abandoned original app — attempted to block efforts by rival companies, resulting in delays that set the UK back in its efforts to manage the virus.
As reported by The Guardian, the developers of alternate contact-tracing apps were told by NHSX or even the Ministry of Defence to stop working on their versions, as they could take attention away from the NHSX’s app when it was eventually launched. One such app, the Covid Symptom Study, is designed to track the emergence of symptoms and cases across the UK, rather than act as a contact tracer. Developed by King’s College London, the app currently has more than three million users.