Around a third of people polled by the Watford Observer have not downloaded a mobile phone app designed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The Twitter poll revealed 33.8 per cent of the 565 people who responded had not downloaded the NHS Covid-19 app three weeks after its launch, with some saying it would not work on their handset.

Launched on September 24, the NHS Covid-19 app is a key part of the Government’s Test and Trace system. It works by alerting users if they have been near someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Modelling carried out by a team at Oxford University earlier this year indicated 60 per cent of the whole population would need to use a contact tracing app to stop the spread of the epidemic.

Although 66.2 per cent of those responding to the Watford Observer poll said they had downloaded the app, comments from readers revealed some are unable to use it because they do not have smartphones.


Others expressed doubts about the app’s reliability. Scarlett Roberts said she received a so-called ‘ghost notification’ – an exposure alert that disappears when tapped on.

She added: “Have then decided not to risk it. Got tested, had to be off work for almost a week, test has come back negative. The idea is great, but the app doesn’t work properly and the Government are not communicating these issues.”

Twitter user Ian Bell was more positive, commenting: “Great app, the real technology behind it provided by Google and Apple working together for the first time ever, enabling Bluetooth in the background. Very secure and neither they nor the Government store any data.”

The latest figures show that in the week to October 7, only 62.6 per cent of the close contacts of people who had tested positive for coronavirus in England were reached through Test and Trace.

During the same week, around a third (32.6 per cent) of those tested at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit received their result within 24 hours.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, the Covid-19 app works on around nine out of ten handsets. For those who cannot use the app, advice is available via NHS 119 and the phone-based contact tracing system.

Following reports of ‘ghost notifications’, the app has been updated to ensure users who receive exposure notifications are told if they do not need to take any action.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The NHS Covid-19 App is an important part of cutting transmission rates, and with over 17 million downloads to date, it is helping to keep our communities and loved ones safe. We want as many people as possible to download the app - the more people who play their part, the more effective it will be.

“NHS Covid-19 app users only need to self-isolate if they get a notification directly from the app advising them to do so and we have worked hard at all stages of development to ensure the app meets their rigorous standards around user privacy and security.”

The Watford Observer Twitter poll was carried out on October 12 and 13.