back to article No surprise: Britain ditches central database model for virus contact-tracing apps in favour of Apple-Google API

The UK government will abandon its centralised COVID-19 contact-tracing smartphone app in favour of the distributed system proposed by Apple and Google more than two months ago. The decision follows word that the app, once said to be a key part of the government's test-and-trace system, wouldn't be ready until at least winter …

  1. Drat

    Had to happen

    It was just a question of time. Why did they have to be so obstinate and waste so much time?

    Sigh

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: Had to happen

      And like the back-and-forth on the utility of wearing masks in the U.S., the zig-zagging is probably going to hold back general uptake of the tracking app, because people will have heard that there are serious privacy problems with the overall tracking app/process.

      Still, baby steps I guess.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Had to happen

      Because the arrogant bastards don't want to admit they may have killed people.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Had to happen

        Because the arrogant bastards don't want to admit they have killed people.

        Somewhere in the region of 10,000 to 20,000, and rising.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Had to happen

      >Why did they have to be so obstinate and waste so much time?

      Because up until a few weeks ago the T&T systems decisions were being taken by NHSX. NHSX is a tiny body run by an ex-spook invented out of nowhere last year to offer tech point solutions to hard problems. This means in practice they have been principally funnelling money to a small company called Faculty, who are to all intents and purposes the commercial arm of the Vote Leave campaign's analytics team - this means they're Dominic Cummings's mates.

      They drafted in Palantir to help. This was done at no additional cost - it was a natural emergency, naturally - but Palantir and Faculty (and others) would retain rights to IP developed during the T&T engagement. This would include derived machine learning models and statistical analyses. All based on the most sensitive data we could possibly have - minute by minute accounting of where you've been and who you've been near, cross referenced with your confidential NHS data and then handed over to the Home Office and to the least ethical companies in data and analytics.

      T&T decisions were recently moved under Dido Harding who (and this is important) reports to NHS England, who operate on a proper statutory basis - NHSX report to the minister directly, so have no real supervision or oversight or purpose. Dido might not have the best reputation in these parts, but she is not a complete idiot and NHSE are almost certainly more concerned with building a functioning T&T system than they are in trying to harvest all our secrets for nefarious uses.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Had to happen

        Ah yes, NHSX. Matt Hancock's technology vanity project. The GDS of the National Health Service - long on blue sky thinking, short on implementation. In fact some of the senior GDS bods went across to it, if I recall correctly.

        As a former TalkTalk customer I'm no fan of Dido Harding, but if the governance is as you say then even she's probably going to be an improvement.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Had to happen

          >but if the governance is as you say then even she's probably going to be an improvement.

          Quite. And it's easy to take the lazy option and just go "Ar well this is just how government IT works isn't it?", but this is so, so much worse. In contrast to this debacle, HMRC staff and their commercial suppliers knocked out the furlough scheme infrastructure from scratch, to spec in 10 weeks with absolutely no major issues in delivery or operations. That was a genuinely "world-beating" system - larger in scale and ambition than anything anyone else has done in that kind of timescale or with that volume of money on the line.

          Government should be singing from the rafters on how successful that project has been, and how they had within the last few years carefully moved away from the monolithic external supplier model (i.e. the one NHSX uses) to a hybrid, in-sourced model where contractors are brought into civil servant-led teams allowing them to work quickly, to scale and actually deliver on government priorities. Instead we've got ministers being sent out to bat to defend NHSX's wholesale abrogation of their responsibilities, saying nonsense like "we backed both horses" or blaming Apple for "not changing their model".

          NHSX and their partners have real blood on their hands over this, and I hope everyone who works there thinks long and hard about this. Public sector IT is not a game. Playing with your Powerpoints and your pitches is fun - making some money off the government talking shit about machine learning is fun. But at the end of the day these are real lives and people - lots of people - have died.

          1. BrownishMonstr Bronze badge

            Re: Had to happen

            Wait, you're saying HMRC can do something very successfully if they pull their finger out of their arsehole?

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Had to happen

          "even she's probably going to be an improvement."

          Which just goes to show how bad it was.

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            App Hancock Re: Had to happen

            "Save us Dido Harding" is not something I ever expected to say.

            As an observation, I saw it pointed out recently there are a number of these £108m incidents. Track and trace, ferries, PPE (https://twitter.com/JolyonMaugham/status/1272479030265118720). It must be some kind of discretionary spending limit.

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: £108m

              Maybe some kind of euphemism for We've won, oh wait.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Had to happen

        But doesn't this get away from the fact that it was VMWare's Pivotal Labs who created the app, and have made a tidy couple million from the failed project? Whilst Zuhlke have got an even bigger contract for supporting that app (and potentially rewriting it).

        Those other companies work under NHSX, but to think that there's some conspiracy to use this app (which simply asks for the first part of your postcode) to monitor and track everything seems a bit far-fetched, considering that this is a government who can't get a single decision right. One of the issues with the app was that if it was reinstalled on a phone, it would have no prior knowledge of you, so if it can't even work around that simple problem this idea of it tracking you and cross referencing NHS data doesn't seem well founded.

        Whenever I search for anything about Cummings being involved in this, I never find anything concrete, even articles in the New Stateman say that "if the app changed and asked for more data and then if this happened etc". There's nothing concrete, only rumours on the internet.

        What I take from this is that the NHS is literally throwing money at anyone who claims that they have a good idea, and all of this money is just being wasted.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Had to happen

          >But doesn't this get away from the fact that it was VMWare's Pivotal Labs who created the app, and have made a tidy couple million from the failed project? Whilst Zuhlke have got an even bigger contract for supporting that app (and potentially rewriting it).

          Yes and no. Although the legwork of the application development was being done by the fine chaps at Pivotal and otherwise unheard of Zuhlke, it is important to stress that the direction for that development was set by NHSX. The biggest bone of contention - whether to use the Gapple anonymous model or the non-anonymous model that has just been ditched - was principally driven by NHSX's data strategy.

          In other words it was NHSX's data people who decided that it was probably beneficial to be able to centrally store this data. NHSX have outsourced their data strategy wholesale to Faculty AI and the internal data platform being used has been set up by Palantir, so the actual key decision point would have fallen to those two companies. As has been widely reported elsewhere those companies have significant links to far-right political figures such as Peter Thiel and Dominic Cummings, and both companies had a significant financial incentive to violate our privacy in the form of the IP rights to any analyses and models developed.

          >which simply asks for the first part of your postcode

          So, this is a point worth digging in on. It's fair to say the app is, on the face of it, anonymous All you'd have is a unique-per-installation ID and a part postcode. But you'd _also_ have, by virtue of the central database, a minute-by-minute accounting of every other device you've come into. Just on its own that is more than enough for a skilled analyst to de-anonymise a majority of the dataset. We've all seen recently how trivial it is to reverse engineer someone's identity from their location - the listing of everyone else you have met is almost as good.

          The part postcode just makes this _super_ easy - an average postcode region in the UK has barely 25,000 inhabitants. It would be trivial for someone like the Home Office or even Faculty or Palantir to de-anonymise huge fractions of the dataset, and then there'd be nothing stopping them joining that back onto health data, immigration data, whatever other data you fancy really. And what does any of that have to do with fighting coronavirus? NHSX decided they wanted to do all of that. They valued those invasive, abusive activities more than they valued the lives of real people in society.

      3. Ivor Kintol D'uso

        Re: Had to happen

        Mostly nonsense - especially the bit about Cummins!

        NHSX , headed by George Osborne's mate Matthew Gould is precisely the sort of organisation that Cummins has historically campaigned against.

        c.f. Guido Fawkes page the other day:-

        "The decision to build the software rather than buy it in – especially as it was already close to existing at the time – was Gould’s decision. It was a decision made for his and NHSX’s glory more than the public interest. Dominic Cummings when he was outside government would rail in blogs about the culture of the Civil Service, where Oxbridge bluffers with no clue would fail and face no consequences. Gould, who read philosophy and divinity at Cambridge, is a classic example"

    4. nematoad Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Had to happen

      "There are technical challenges."

      Talking to people we know a lot have said that they tried the app but ditched it due to draining the battery and in some cases making the 'phone hot to the touch. Added to the fact that it appears to not work with the iPhone as the OP titled this thread it had to happen.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Had to happen

      Problem, the UK one more or less worked with Android 'phones, but not of course with apple, The Google-Apple one sort of works with both, but has no idea how close the phones were to each and cannot do anything else that might have been remotely useful. This renders it useless as other countries have found.

      Would I bother with this Google-Apple 'cries-wolf or not at all application'?

      No, probably not, even if it could be made to do something useful.

      My 'phone is four years old so it probably would not work anyway.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Had to happen

        No possible bluetooth stack could ever tell you the precise distance between phones under all common circumstances.

        The stack only knows signal strength. It does not know time-of-flight.

        Signal strength depends on both the distance squared and the environment.

        The Apple/Google one is backed by a team with access to far better kit and with infinitely greater understanding of the physics, hardware and software in use, because they designed it.

        The Google/Apple SDK is very likely several orders of magnitude more accurate and precise than the NHSX trial app, simply because of the engineering knowledge and experience that they each have.

        And yes, it's not going to distinguish between "both phones in pocket at short range" and "phones in free air further apart" (if the cameras are covered), any more than you can distinguish 1G of thrust from 1G of gravity (without windows).

        Physics doesn't care about your political claims, any more than biology does.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Calibration

          The elephant in the room with Bluetooth is that there has been no requirement for precise Bluetooth transmit power and RSSI calibration, so each phone model will have its own unique measurements. This means that an estimated range of 1m might be 10m or 0.1m. This is a far bigger variation than phone orientation.

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Had to happen

      "Why did they have to be so obstinate and waste so much time?"

      It's the mentality that keeps showing up when governments throw monay about shouting "This will make the UK the leader in ....". It always ends up in failure. Basically it's people who don't know the details and reality of what it would take to do it (and this is a government particularly light in seating the details). They just need to promote something (largely themselves) and their Dunning Krugger abilities make them think they can achieve it.

      1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

        Re: Had to happen

        Ah, but this time we're shouting "world-beating" instead, so things are sure to go right.

      2. croxed

        Re: Had to happen

        If they wanted the UK to be a world leader in... why did they contract with a Swiss company? The U.K. and London in particular have some very good (world class) app developers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Had to happen

          Had "world class" developers - that was before IR-35. I've previous contracted on an old NHS project, clueless NHS management who were saved by consultants. Remove the consultants.

    7. Carbage

      Re: Had to happen

      Never worked with civil servants then?

  2. Steve Todd

    Use an API tailored to the task

    Rather than trying to hack your way around the security restrictions of iOS and Android? That and use an internationally approved model with privacy baked in. HMG must be fuming that they can’t get their hands on all that juicy data. Oh well, people might actually be prepared to use it then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Use an API tailored to the task

      Alternatively, the NHS now has part of its activity controlled by two US tech companies. (Interesting article yesterday from someone involved in similar attempts at a non Apple/Google app in Latvia over the implications of US tech companies being able to tell European democratic governements what they are able to do)

      1. Steve Todd
        FAIL

        Re: Use an API tailored to the task

        On the basis you are talking about then the NHS is already controlled by a US tech company: Microsoft. Using the technology produced by a company doesn’t mean that it controls you. Apple and Google provide a service to the UK public. The NHS are trying to piggyback off of those services, and must therefore work within the established limits of them. This doesn’t mean that they are controlled by the companies, merely that they have boundaries that they have to work within if they want to add capabilities to their toolkit.

        The public in this case has voted with their wallets over what phone they want to carry with them. Do you not think it would be more un democratic to force them to buy some other device because the government can’t do what they want with what the public has purchased?

    2. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: Use an API tailored to the task

      It still is a not going to work. The whole idea of Bluetooth based proximity logging system is red herring that will provide more False Positives than True Positives.

      1. Steve Todd

        Re: Use an API tailored to the task

        Really? You do understand that it is based on Bluetooth LE, which will give you a fairly accurate range between transmitter and receiver, plus allows you to dial the TX power down so that the range becomes not much more than the 2 meter limit anyway. There is then a threshold of time for a warning, and another before positive advice to isolate.

        I think you don’t understand the technology and how this is expected to work.

      2. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: Use an API tailored to the task

        All it's needed to do is tell if people have been in closish proximity for some length of time. Of course it will generate false positives, it's a precautionary measure to help reduce transmission of a pretty hard to eradicate virus.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hancock is, at this very second, on national television saying words to the effect of:

    "We found that our app works well on Android devices. But, Apple software prevents iPhones, being used effectively for contact tracing

    ...

    So as it stands, our app won't work because Apple won't change their system"

    This should not have come as a surprise, Matthew, given Apple warned every country on the planet in no uncertain terms that they would not let anyone break the Bluetooth security model unless they played by the new rules. This warning was given at the end of _April_. This wasn't Apple not playing ball or being obstinate. This was your idiots at NHSX being so arrogant they believed they'd be allowed to harvest everyone's data without purpose, and that Google and Apple would just play along.

    Google and Apple. Those are the people looking down on what you had planned for our data. That's the level you're at. Own it, don't dare try and shift the blame for this.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Google and Apple. Those are the people looking down on what you had planned for our data.

      Please excuse me one moment, while I print this out in 144pt type and pin it up on my wall.

      1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

        If you're on Windows you might need to update before you can do that.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google and Apple should have written the apps themselves and then published it out.

    Then you would have one app that works no matter where on the planet you happen to be and everyone is covered anonymously.

    Yes I am prepared for the downvotes

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This is not a stupid idea, and some of this has happened. But the missing bit is that you need to be able to verify someone has tested positive, otherwise people could just maliciously claim to be infected to menace their neighbours, safe in the blanket of anonymity we've fought for the system to have. So there needs to be a degree of engagement with the relevant local health authority to allow people to prove they have actually tested positive - probably with some kind of one-time authentication code.

      There's also a requirement for the local authority to set up the intermediate publish/subscribe infrastructure for the notification process itself - Gapple want no part in that.

    2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      WTF?

      I really wish they'd find some adults to take charge

      Pandemic planning, emergency stockpiles, lockdown timing, care homes. ventilator challenge, personal protective equipment, school reopening, track 'n trace, UK entry controls only when it became pointless, and now the app

      It would be amusing if it hadn't already cost tens of thousands of lives.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: I really wish they'd find some adults to take charge

        It often feels like everything is just reactionary in order to appease the public/press at the time, with no planning or forethought at all.

  5. Neil 44
    Childcatcher

    If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

    ... which is completely ridiculous for a (relatively) small software project...

    (The government has given the Oxford vaccine group £20M to do the trials - OK Astrazenica are putting some money in now for the later phases particularly outside the UK and ramping up the production trials but still nowhere near another £88M)

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

      I think you'll find creating several hundred million vaccines, that may not work, is a tad more expensive than 88million.

      1. Neil 44

        Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

        Yes. And IF it doesn't work (which I really hope it does!), AZ are proceeding at risk and won't get paid by anyone else. No government money goes to them...

        They have also said they will sell it "at cost" for the duration of the pandemic - they're gambling that they are going to make their money when the pandemic is over and people need a booster ever 1,2,5,... years (it isn't known how long the antibodies will last yet, obviously, for a new vaccine!).

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

      AFAICT, the £108M is for the contract with Serco to provide the "human" infrastructure of barely-trained customer service agents. The contract was effectively given to Serco, it seems, as it seemed unlikely anyone else had the ability to roll out the required number of people quickly. The CEO of Serco said that the contract would help in cementing the position of the private sector companies in the public sector supply chain, so they've generously allowed themselves only a small profit margin.

      Not to be confused with the £108M that went to a small pest-control company to supply large amounts of PPE.

      Also not to be confused with the £108M spent on 3 contracts for Brexit ferry services, including the infamous firm with no ships.

      It's curious that this figure comes up again and again in relation to "emergency" procurement that doesn't seem to go through the normal tendering process.

      But we'll all be too busy admiring Boris's Union Jack sky-penis to notice any of that.

      1. GeorgeOfBells

        Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

        Serco keep winning government contracts, not surprising when the CEO is Rupert Soames, Churchill's grandson and brother of Nicholas Soames MP.

      2. I am the liquor

        Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

        The total value of the 5 Brexit ferry contracts was £100.4m, not £108m. £13.8m for Seaborne Freight (the outfit with no ferries) and £86.6m split between Brittany Ferries, DFDS, P&O and Stena:

        https://www.civilserviceworld.com/articles/news/brexit-ferries-reboot-government-signs-%C2%A387m-contracts-transport-medicines

        Not that anyone on Twitter would ever let mere numerical precision get in the way of a good story.

        The Serco and Pestfix contracts are both being reported as £108m though. I wonder if Matt Hancock's secretly a Buddhist.

        https://www.thezenlife.com/blogs/news/the-significance-of-the-number-108

        1. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

          A later article suggests £108M between only 3 companies - and that's the figure that was widely reported in the press at the time.

          The accuracy of the number, though, is rather less interesting than the number of times it gets reported as fact.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

        "But we'll all be too busy admiring Boris's Union Jack sky-penis to notice any of that."

        Has anyone actually checked if this paint job is due anyway? Aircraft do get a fresh coat of paint every so often anyway as part of it's upkeep. What does an average, normally scheduled. non-complex paint job cost on a plane that size?

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

          From what I read a complete strip down and repaint of the sky penis was not required at this point in time. It also reads that it's because when not-yet-a-dictator BoJo had to fly in the plane he didn't like the plane as it was dull and therefore needed it to be clowned up a bit.

    3. grib69ers

      Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

      this is why the government couldn't fund school dinners for the kids. Stupid UK gov leadership strikes again. Solution: MPs need electing that represent citizens interests not whatever is on their personal dinner plate at the time

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

        Quote:

        Stupid UK gov leadership strikes again. Solution: MPs need electing that represent citizens interests not whatever is on their personal dinner plate at the time

        Hhahahahhahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahah

        What dream world are you living in?

        Seriously... most MPs are lawyers and their hangers on/ lobbyists/ special advisors seem to sprout from the same university the MP went to.

        So given a choice between lobbing taxpayer cash at a competent well planned company experienced in the matter in hand or lobbing it at their mate's start up that has a glossy folder full of PDFs... it will goto the mate... because he was a jolly good wheeze back at oxbridge.

        Plus he has incriminating photos of the MP shagging a sheep.....

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

        I wonder how many people complaining about the calibre of MPs have considered putting themselves forward? And why those who haven't haven't.

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re:putting oneself forward as an MP

          To get elected round here you have to be the Conservative Party candidate. However, if you are the Conservative Party candidate, you will be elected.

          About half of our population live in seats where it doesn't matter how you vote nationally and local power is minimal. That is why voter engagement is so low.

          1. The Dogs Meevonks

            Re: Re:putting oneself forward as an MP

            and this is why we need to change the first past the post voting system we have... where you can win without even getting 20% of the votes.

            It's just a bunch of corrupt, arsewipes doling out taxpayer cash to their chums at every opportunity whilst people die from their negligence and incompetence.

            and if you though brexit was going to be bad before this pandemic... it's going to be a lot worse as the xenophic fuckwits in charge have refused to be involved with the EU on dealing with it as a whole...

            How about we paint Bojo the clown sky penis with that slogan involving 350 million being spent on the NHS... or should we change that to let's give 108 million to a few of our mates companies and fuck the NHS again like we always do.

        2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: If it has cost £108M that is more than the vaccine development program!

          @Dr S: a serious question deserves a serious answer, so here goes. These are my reasons for not wanting to be an M.P.

          1. I am not, and never will be, a "good" Party member (i.e. a back-slapping, two-faced extrovert willing to change opinions based on whoever tells you what your opinion is).

          2. Living life in the public eye. I don't want everyone knowing who I am and what I (may have) have said or done in the past.

          3. More importantly, my family don't want (2) above.

          4. I don't want to be defined by my political opinions.

          5. I actually have scruples that I'm proud of.

          6. I would become VERY frustrated at nor being able to change what I see as fundamental injustices in the system (welfare, court system, democratic deficit).

          There are probably more, but those five reasons are sufficient. Change the Party system, get rid of FPTP voting, set some enforceable limits on what journalists can invade, and I *might* change my mind.

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Duplicate article

    Don't you hacks check to see if someone else has already covered this?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Duplicate article

      You are Matt Hancock and I claim my five pounds.

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Never fear, Jimmy Wales is here

    He can port the German app in a week

    Twitter

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Never fear, Jimmy Wales is here

      Actually, his team probably can. I suspect anyone who has ever created an iOS/Android app could do it in a couple of weeks.

      The only hard bit is defining when a given instance should broadcast its contacts list, as it'd be rather open to abuse to let users hit the panic button without any confirmation of a diagnosis.

      Though on the other hand, it's not actually any worse than than asking people with a positive test to fill out an online form listing their contacts. And that is the current UK methodology.

      So maybe a simple Big Red Button actually is ok.

  8. Bloodbeastterror

    This is all complete cack

    Once again the government is proclaiming that I.T. is the magic bullet that can cure all ills. It really isn't. The cure is the simple personal one originally trumpeted and now discarded - stay away from other people apart from those you live with. Instead, now we have "It's all fine, go about your business", which will inevitably cause another spike with or without a so-called T&T app. What a shambles.

    For those who missed it (and correct my maths if I'm wrong) the UK has, on the government's own figures, 40,000 Covid-related deaths; worldwide we have over 400,000. The UK has a population of 67 million; the world has 7.8 billion. The UK has 1% of the world's population but 10% of Covid deaths.

    Competent...?

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: This is all complete cack

      "worldwide we have over 400,000"

      There are two big caveats to that figure though: it's 'so far' and 'that governments admit to'. This is also true in the UK, but much, much more the case in a lot of other countries. See for example, Russia's joke figures. I wouldn't be surprised if there are actually a million or more COVID-19 deaths by now.

      1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

        Re: This is all complete cack

        Don't forget PRC's joke figures in that there is a serious mismatch between other economic indicators and their reported fatality figures.

      2. TheFifth

        Re: This is all complete cack

        My wife is Russian. Speaking to her family and friends who are still in Russia, they all say that in February they had a really bad flu that had all the symptoms of Covid. Her mother was ill for weeks and lost her sense of taste and smell for longer. Russia didn't admit any real level of infection until late-March. From the people we've spoken to, it looks like the virus had already spread through a fair bit of the population before it was ever reported and was just counted as a normal, seasonal flu. Given their close trade and political ties with China, I wouldn't be surprised if they had an early spread.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: This is all complete cack

      Also, countries are reporting deaths in differentways.

      I know of two deaths of "Covid19" personally.

      One person (87) was raced into hospital after collapsing with an exiting complication of pneumonia. Whilst in hospital (on life support) contracted Covid19. A few days later. Cause if death? Covid19.

      The other case was a terminally ill patient suffering a brain tumour. He had stopped receiving treatment and was effectively under palliative care. Caught Covid19. Cause of death? Covid19 of course.

      Germany and China have just had two local flare ups, so it's not like it's gone away in those.

      Then, of course, you gave the likes of Brazil, that apparently hardly have it and Tanzania where it was cured by the President praying.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: This is all complete cack

        Hence the only really believable figures are "Excess Deaths".

        Practically everywhere is undercounting Covid19 deaths, often with huge discrepancies.

        The only exceptions seem to be Belgium and Germany, which are most likely counting some not-covid as being covid while missing some covid. So ending up with roughly the right totals, while still making errors individually.

        1. The Dogs Meevonks

          Re: This is all complete cack

          Belgium have a population of around 13 million... when you do the % they're higher than you'd think.

        2. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: This is all complete cack

          Hence the only really believable figures are "Excess Deaths".

          And even that isn't truely accurate unless society goes on as normal during that period. But with lockdowns, limited gathering sizes, limited travel and so on, the 'accidental' deaths, that is those due to vehicle accidents or industrial accidents or various misadventures (taking selfies on edges of cliffs and walking off the edge) will have all gone down. Therefore just raw excess deaths isn't accurate - but it is still more accurate than official government figures.

    3. The Dogs Meevonks

      Re: This is all complete cack

      I've been trying for 3 months to educate people on how pandemics spread... and for the most part... people have ignored me. They can't grasp it or don't want to listen because it's an inconvenience.

      I've said all along that without longterm measures that are now being thrown aside... we will see a second wave... and it'll hit around August-Sept depending on the weather... if we get a long hot summer, it'll help slow it down.

      But the goal of this govt isn't to stop it... it's to stop it over whelimng a healthcare system that has been underfunded for a decade... where emergency pandemic supplies for this exact situation where devoid of the very ppe that was required.

      If the NHS and the pandemic emergency supplies had been funded properly... thousands of lives would have been saved... and the elderly wouldn't have been sacrificed in care homes up and down the country to ease the burden... and that's before you get intot he thousands of deaths that haven't been recorded as covid because they wouldn't test anyone who died outside of healthcare facilities. The average deaths over the last 5 years is 20,000 higher for this period... with a 2-3% average deviation.

      Over 40,000 'official' reported deaths... but we're really looking at closer to 60,000... perhaps more. And it's not going away. Just look at the US for how to handle it badly... they're not experiencing a second wave... they never got out of the first one.

      Long rant... it makes my blood boil... these C***S in charge are no better than murderers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is all complete cack

        Money doesn’t make the incompetent competent. The NHS has had massive amounts of taxpayers money thrown at it at still manages to waste and misallocate a lot of it. PHE politics and incompetence and shambolic procurement in the NHS were accepted as the norm until the stuff hit the fan. They are paid by the government to protect us and singularly failed. But let’s not forget where the blame for these deaths really lies, and that’s with Xi Jinping and the chinese communist party...

        1. Bloodbeastterror

          Re: This is all complete cack

          And there we have it. It's not the government's fault, it's the NHS's. And it's not Covid-19, it's The Chinese Plague.

          Troll, posting of course as AC.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: This is all complete cack

            Yep, pretty much straight out of the Tory/Random-hate/Farage mouths. Blame someone else, anyone else, for their incompetence. When caught out, point at others instead. Never, ever answer a single straight question with a straight answer. Although that last one is usually politicians in general.

            We had a chance when BoJo (I don't need to do social distancing) caught Covid-19 and suffered for it, however things returned back to the hate and blame and bluster culture in a disappointingly short period of time. Add Cummings lying and breaking his own rules then the UK populace very predictably got fed up with things.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: This is all complete cack

        "if we get a long hot summer, it'll help slow it down."

        I don't get that bit. Why? It's present and spreading in countries where their winter temperatures are higher than our best summer temperatures. I'm guessing there must be some wholly counter-intuitive reason for it bit I can't for the life me work out what it is.

        1. AndrewB57

          Re: This is all complete cack

          "I don't get that bit. Why? It's present and spreading in countries where their winter temperatures are higher than our best summer temperatures. I'm guessing there must be some wholly counter-intuitive reason for it bit I can't for the life me work out what it is."

          Because when it is cold, windy and wet we shut our windows and spend more time indoors. We take the bus to work rather than walk or bike.

          The dispersal of virus vectors outside is very significant but in the still air of a sealed home or office.....

          As some other wise person has said, it WILL spread until a very high proportion of the population have had it. The only thing, ultimately, that can stop that happening will be an effective vaccine with significant uptake. Until then all we can do is slow the spread to the point where our economy can support our medical service to treat the casualties.

    4. Beavis-101

      Re: This is all complete cack

      The uncomfortable truth is that if you cannot fix a business by adding a "new" IT system.

      There is no magic bullet since the person behind the rifle is the defining operator. Someone who fails to hit a target will continue to do so if given a more capable weapon.

  9. The Pi Man

    More bungling

    From the same Government that gave a contract to Dyson to produce ventilators, even though they couldn’t actually supply ventilators.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: More bungling

      No, the Govt. gave a notice of intent to buy ventilators if they were needed. Dyson spent in the region of £20m developing one he would be able to sell but in the event, no more were required, he sold none and didn't get a penny from UK gov. It's easy enough to find the facts if you look for them.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No echo chamber here...

    The article says the gov wanted to move to the Gapple model a whole ago. But nhsx were holding it up. You commentards can't have it both ways. Who's to blame? Apple, the government? Nhsx? NHSE?

    Must be the government. Evil doers. They want our data more than anyone. B#stard epidemiologists. How dare they want more accurate distancing. Silly idea.

    And then you have the "we care about privacy and won't slurp data from our walled garden" Apple. Which is just slight of hand for the next time they screw up. But then they can say "we were so kind during covid. Look, we even played nice with our mortal enemies".

    All the answers are here aren't they for your hated bogeymen of the year.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: echo chamber ...

      Echo chamber (n): forum where most people disagree with your opinion.

      Consensus (n): forum where most people agree with your opinion

    2. I am the liquor

      Re: No echo chamber here...

      If the government wanted to move to the Google/Apple model, they should have done it, shouldn't they? Does NHSX control the government, or the other way around? Actually don't answer that.

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: No echo chamber here...

        Actually don't answer that

        It doesn't really need answering: NHSX is the government - there's no pretence of independence.

        A more interesting question is whose interests the government serves.

      2. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: No echo chamber here...

        @I am the liquor

        "If the government wanted to move to the Google/Apple model, they should have done it, shouldn't they?"

        This is the problem of big government. Nobody can know everything about everything so they need 'experts'. Unfortunately nobody really notices if the outcome is good but everyone notices when it goes wrong and blame the gov.

        With all the privacy and tax arguments against Apple and Google it would be a risk to use their app. And some will ask why cant the gov get an app built, yet this experience is why..

  11. SloppyJesse

    Payment on delivery

    "Both Dell's VMware GO Pivotal and Swiss consultancy Zühlke Engineering won contracts dating from March onwards for work on the NHSX app"

    Presumably having failed to deliver a key element of the app to the required timescales they will not be paid in full.

  12. julianh72

    I assume the ditched UK app is based on similar technology to the COVIDSafe app in Australia, which in turn was based on the Singapore TraceTogether app, etc. According to recent reports https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2020-06-17/covidsafe-contact-tracing-app-test-documents-rated-poor-iphone/12359250 , the effectiveness of the Australian app on iPhones has been improving over several recent updates - although it still seems to have been of no practical use in tracing any actual community-transmission contacts to date.

    (Note that community transmission is very low in Australia at present, so this may not be a meaningful test of effectiveness - and there is no Google / Apple app in Australia, so there is nothing to compare the effectiveness of the two approaches.)

  13. Pete4000uk

    Bet someones ego

    has taken a bit of a hit

  14. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    I hope the gov to a very public autopsy on the handling of Covid and shine the light on NHSX, the NHS and PHE. They should also highlight the success of the HMRC response.

    That would be a great time to ask what these people do for the money that is thrown at them.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      The gov won't, due to "reasons" that they will make some up at the time, most likely "not in the public interest right now" due to being in the middle of the worst manufactured recession for centuries. The other key reason being that any investigation will start with the incompetence of the government as everything stems from there.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        @Nick Ryan

        "The other key reason being that any investigation will start with the incompetence of the government as everything stems from there."

        I am not quite sure. Not that the gov will escape unscathed but the initial reaction not to lockdown seems to have been right. But that of course got the gov in hot water and their reaction to deal with lockdown was swift.

        Of course the information of what we can and cant do by the gov has been a bit illogical but they are dealing with people who already ignore the lockdown and a virus that isnt as dangerous or deadly as originally feared. WHO and China needing a clap around the ear but as for our actual reaction PHE and the NHS really do seem to need a serious review

  15. airbrush

    Tories...

    All these weird decisions and over centralised control do make you wonder if this epidemic is just a huge opportunity to reward the parties friends..

  16. Gee Kay

    Wait, which Jimmy Wales are we talking about?

    Is this the same Jimmy Wales who took £20,000,000 of investors' money, saying he would build an ethical social networking site for The People's Operator that would be "similar to Twitter but better", but then ran the company into dust in just a couple of years? The same head of the company that investor Georgina Brittain recently named her "worst investment and lesson learned"? The project that she said "totally failed to live up to the hype"?

    Oh, I'd love to see this contact tracing app that Mr. Wales could have ready in two weeks!

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