Government minister James Brokenshire was “unable to give a definitive timeline” on the roll-out of the national coronavirus app this morning.
The security minister said the smartphone app had experienced “technical issues” with its trial on the Isle of Wight .
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised a “world-beating” coronavirus tracing system from June 1 . On Wednesday, he said an army of 25,000 contact tracers, able to track 10,000 new cases a day, would be in place by that date.
However, experts have cast doubt over whether a fully functioning system will be in place by then and questions have been raised over its capabilities without the app.
Mr Brokenshire said the app would be introduced in the “coming weeks” and would run “in parallel” with manual methods such as making calls.
But on the timing of the app, he told BBC Breakfast: “Whilst I am unable to give you that definitive timeline this morning, please be in no doubt as to the extent, the effort, the energy of focus that is being put on that as well.”
Quizzed on Sky News over why the app would not be ready, he said: “We obviously want to see that the app is put in place well and effectively, learning from the experience in the Isle of Wight and dealing with any… all of the feedback that we’re receiving on some of the technical issues, to ensure that that is as strong as we can make it.
“But that should not stand in the way of the introduction of the track and trace arrangements that I’ve explained.”
Asked where the government would get its information from if the app is not ready, Mr Brokenshire said they would use traditional methods such as call handlers and clinicians identifying and obtaining contact details of those exposed to the virus.
It comes as NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson urged the Government to “get on” with rolling out a track and trace system.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it is being done very late in the day and we really do need to get on with this.
“I’m not saying it is impossible to do it, but I think there is concern among those at local level because we’ve seen – not occasionally, we’ve seen often – where national stuff is done with the best of intentions, but unless the local context is understood it doesn’t really work as well as it should.”
He added: “And I think it is only recently, to be brutally honest, that the Government’s rhetoric changed to recognise that to get this test, track and trace thing in place you not only need a national system, you not only need the app, but you also need to put at the centre of local plans local officials who understand about contact tracing – they do it all the time.
“But you need to co-ordinate that.”
The June 1 deadline also marks the earliest possible date for the easing of lockdown restrictions such as the reopening of schools and non-essential shops.
The government’s own deputy chief scientific adviser Professor Dame Angela McLean has previously said an effective system for tracing new coronavirus cases must be in place before restrictions are changed.