NHS Covid app: venue check-ins fall off a cliff as contact alerts continue to decline

Written by Sam Trendall on 23 August 2021 in News
News

Usage of app to participate in contact-tracing feature declines sharply 

Credit: /CC BY-SA 4.0

In the weeks since all coronavirus restrictions were lifted, citizens’ use of the venue-check in feature of the NHS Covid-19 app has plummeted to pre-lockdown levels, with weekly usage less than a tenth of the levels seen earlier this summer.

The latest data set also shows that contact alerts have also continued to drop, to a weekly total of 255,474 across England in the seven-day period ending on 11 August. In the final week before all remaining social-contact limitations were removed on 19 July removal, the total number of exposure notifications reached almost 700,000. This figure was nearly cut in half the following week, and has now dropped twice more since then.

The decline in the number of venue check-ins has been even starker.

Weekly volumes peaked in the seven days to 2 June, during which citizens across England used the app to check into a venue a cumulative total of 14.5 million times. For an eight-week period beginning in mid-May, the total exceeded 10 million every week.

Since 19 July, most venues leave it to visitors’ discretion as to whether they check in for contact-tracing purposes – some premises may not even offer the option to do so.


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Despite restrictions continuing to apply for most of the week, the seven days to 21 July saw check ins drop markedly – from 10.2 million to 6.6 million.

Since the previous rules have been removed entirely, the figure has continued to shrivel; first to 2.3 million, then to 1.7 million and, finally, in the most recent data, to 1.3 million. This figure is less than a tenth of the weekly numbers that were reached while checking in was still a legal requirement.

The number has not been so low since the seven days ending on 7 April – during which all hospitality venues and non-essential retail remained closed.

Despite the huge drop in the proportion of visitors checking in, the number of alerts sent by venues – informing app users that they may have been exposed to coronavirus – actually rose substantially in the week ending 11 August, when it stood at 1,366, compared with 757 in the prior week.

This represents the second-highest total yet recorded by the Test and Trace programme, beaten only by the week ending 21 July.

Data recently suggested that millions of those who have downloaded the app may not have enabled its contact-tracing functionality. Fears have also been raised that many users may simply delete the technology, with the government declining to publish data on how many times this has happened.

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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