Test and Trace chief Dido Harding prompted to self-isolate by NHS COVID-19 app

Threatens plenty of Zoom sessions in the days ahead... just as well they've updated security in recent weeks


There's nothing quite like eating your own dog food, as Test and Trace chief Baroness Dido Harding has learned after being instructed to self-isolate by the NHS COVID-19 contact-tracing app overnight.

In a tweet this morning, Harding said she was feeling well, and that there's "nothing like personal experience of your own products." A screenshot posted to Twitter shows Harding with nine days remaining in her isolation period.

The NHS mandates that anyone with symptoms or a confirmed diagnosis should quarantine for 10 days. If someone has merely been exposed to the disease, that isolation period is increased to 14 days as it takes some time for symptoms to emerge.

Speaking to The Register, a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said: "Dido Harding is self-isolating after being anonymously notified to do so by the NHS COVID-19 app.

"The NHS Test and Trace system continues to break chains of transmission, with everybody having their part to play in tackling this virus."

The DHSC declined to say who would take over should Harding become too unwell to perform her duties, but pointed us to comments where she forecast "many hours of Zoom ahead."

Harding, who previously served as chief executive of the TalkTalk Group, was appointed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock to lead NHS Test and Trace in May.

Her tenure has been overshadowed by multiple failures and delays to roll out a functional contact-tracing app. The first iteration intended to use a centralised approach, which raised questions about privacy, particularly pertaining to whether individual users could be identified, and how long any collected data would be retained.

Although this effort saw a brief trial on the Isle of Wight, it simply wasn't ready for a UK-wide deployment, and was subsequently discontinued in favour of a brand new implementation in late September based on the privacy-protecting APIs established by Google and Apple.

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El Reg pointed out the technical deficiencies early on.

This latest app, NHS COVID-19, has been more successful, although not without its faults. In its haste to produce a working app for England and Wales, important functionality was left missing, including the ability for those on low incomes to claim a self-isolation grant. Furthermore, upon release, it lacked compatibility with other contact-tracing applications used in other UK home nations and territories. That issue was resolved in early November. ®


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