Track and trace system may not be fully developed for "several weeks", justice secretary admits

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The government's coronavirus track and trace system may not be fully operational for several weeks, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has admitted, putting ministers on a collision course with the government's scientific advisers.

Asked whether the NHS tracing app, which forms one part of the system, would be in place for the reopening of schools on 1 June, Buckland told the BBC: "I'm hoping we will see the tracing system start to work by that time."

But he added: "I think it won't necessarily be as widespread and as full-blown as we would like, I think that would develop over the next several weeks, over the next month or so."

He said he could not claim the tracing system would be "fully developed" over the next week, "but I'm confident that will develop quickly".

Yesterday, government scientific advisers warned that lockdown should not be further lifted until an effective track and trace system was in place. Angela McLean, the deputy chief scientific adviser, said lifting further measures required a "highly effective ‘track, trace and isolate’ system to be in place". John Edmunds, another government scientific adviser, said a "well-functioning track and trace" system needed to be "embedded and working well".

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