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Newham not allowed to make coronavirus app download numbers public, council meeting hears

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 September 2020

The NHS Covid-19 app. Picture: Scott D'Arcy/PA Images

The NHS Covid-19 app. Picture: Scott D'Arcy/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

The council knows how many times the NHS Test and Trace app was downloaded during its trial in Newham, but is not allowed to make it public.

Newham Mayor Rohksana Fiaz. Picture: Ken MearsNewham Mayor Rohksana Fiaz. Picture: Ken Mears

The mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, said in a meeting on Tuesday, September 22 that the local authority knows the figure but can’t release it.

Quizzed by Cllr Daniel Lee Phakoe over whether the number is known to the council but cannot be released by Newham, or whether the town hall just doesn’t know it, Mayor Fiaz said: “It’s the former.”

It followed discussion of the borough’s trial of the app along with the Isle of Wight. It was rolled out across the country last Thursday.

Among its functions, the app – which is the second to be tested – alerts users to the level of risk in their neighbourhood and should help them book a test.

On the numbers, Cllr Ken Clark said: “It was going to be world beating when it was introduced and it’s far, far from that.

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“If 90 per cent of the people in Newham had downloaded that app, that would have been broadcast everywhere as being a wonderful success.

“But it obviously isn’t a wonderful success and I’m disappointed in that because it’s a tool designed to keep people safe,” Cllr Clark added.

Jason Strelitz, Newham’s director of public health, expressed sympathy with the view, adding NHS Test and Trace would say the aim of the pilot wasn’t about large download numbers, but getting community feedback.

Mayor Fiaz said the authority did not enter the pilot blindly, but with caution and cynicism. She added NHS Test and Trace wanted to come to Newham due to its diversity, complexity and because it had seen the highest number of deaths due to Covid-19 in the country.

READ MORE: Newham to pilot coronavirus contact tracing app



Part of the pilot feedback would be that “trust is low” in NHS Test and Trace and that businesses and community leaders need to be on board.

Further feedback from Newham to NHS Test and Trace is that the app is a “tainted brand” because of data privacy issues and the government’s handling of Covid-19.

Mayor Fiaz said the ap is not a “silver bullet” and on the town hall’s feedback, she said: “We did not pull our punches.”


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