Sajid Javid’s health department has refused to reveal how many people have turned off contact tracing on the Covid app.
The government admitted it knew the number, but refused to publish it – prompting speculation ministers were embarrassed their test-and-trace system was not as “world-beating” as promised.
DHSC (Department of Health & Social Services) admits it has data but is blocking release, prompting speculation that figure is embarrassing.
Some people – including Tory MPs – have reported either deleting the app or permanently turning off contact tracing.
When asked in a freedom of information request by the Guardian how many people had permanently turned off contact tracing, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) admitted it did hold the relevant data. But it said the information was being “withheld” under an exemption, known as “section 22”, allowing it to publish the figure at an unspecified date.
The DHSC said it had assessed “as objectively as possible” whether it was in the public interest to release the information and that while doing so would lead to “greater transparency in government”, it had decided to block the release for now to ensure it was “made available to everyone at the same time”. It declined to give any timescale of when that would happen.
Justin Madders, a shadow health minister, said it was “typical of this government to withhold information when it’s not in their interests”. He asked:
“What do they have to hide? Either the NHS app is working or their chaos, confusion and mixed messages around the app have driven people to delete it in their droves. If it’s the latter, ministers must own up to their failures and set out how they plan to get contact tracing back under control.”
Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, said it was:
“disappointing to see the government attempting to conceal the shortcomings of its apparent failing test-and-trace programme”.
She added: “The government must publish all data held relating to test and trace to allow for greater transparency and public scrutiny. If test and trace is still truly world beating, what have they got to hide?”