Labour has accused ministers of wasting almost £12 million of taxpayers’ money on its abandoned coronavirus tracing app. But of you ask any of the official and non-official partners in the food chain of this money, they will say that it was perfectly spent and not wasted.
The Government ditched plans to develop its own NHSX app and is instead looking to software created by Apple and Google to build it.
That decision came despite the in-house app costing £11.8 million to design and having been piloted for weeks on the Isle of Wight.
A spokesman for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters on Wednesday that ministers had adopted the incorrect approach ‘from the outset’.
He added: ‘The fact that £12 million has been spent on an app which isn’t going to be launched is undoubtedly a waste of money.
What the Government should have been doing weeks ago is working with companies, looking at other international examples and trying to find a way – the fact that other countries have a nationwide app launched shows that this Government’s approach was wrong from the outset.’
He went on to list Germany, South Korea and Singapore as countries ‘far ahead of us in terms of having a nationwide app rolled out’.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson
said that no other country in the world had a functioning coronavirus
tracing app as he defended the UK’s failure to produce a tracing aid.
Sir Keir replied that Germany’s had been downloaded 12 million times.
Downing Street acknowledged that other countries had produced apps, but said they did not ‘fully and reliably’ record contacts in a way that would allow officials to advise people whether to self-isolate or not.
Labour also called on Number 10 to commit to making its scientific and medical experts available to the public after choosing to cancel the daily coronavirus
The opposition party said it understood the ‘rationale’ behind the decision but Sir Keir’s spokesman added: ‘We would say to the Government you do need to ensure there is a mechanism to allow the public to continue to hear from scientists.’
Sir Keir is looking forward to having a pint at his local north London pub, The Pineapple in Kentish Town, when the lockdown restrictions are eased on July 4, his spokesman confirmed.