Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Out with the old, maybe in with the new

I've quietly uninstalled the NHS Covid-19 app. Given my personal circumstances, I couldn't see the point of having it on my phone any more.
I do still have the main NHS app, and that'll be a permanent fixture. It's the one that displays my vaccinations, current and future, to anybody who wants proof of them. It's also jolly handy for all kinds of things, such as making appointments to speak with my favourite doctor, and ordering a new batch of medication and HRT patches.
I also have the ZOE Covid-19 app, installed on my phone nearly a year ago, which is a university-based, semi-official, data-gathering app used by 4.6 million other people. I am very keen to support this initiative for as long as it is needed. They feed back good information on how infections are going in my locality, with maps fine-grained enough to indicate where the no-go areas are.

I'm also keen to carry on with hygiene measures, and a sensible degree of social distancing and mask-wearing, even though these things are no longer compulsory. I've always regarded them as the most effective everyday defences against becoming infected - or passing it on - combined with simply avoiding getting close to anybody I don't know and trust. 

Being double-jabbed is an obvious benefit, and I expect to be triple-jabbed by the end of autumn, but there is still a small risk of one or other strain of the virus bypassing my vaccination-given immunity and giving me a nasty illness. So there can be no dropping one's guard.
It has long seemed to me that, compared to being vaccinated, and keeping up physical measures to avoid that dreaded virus-aerosol, having an app installed on my phone was not nearly such a good defence. It seemed dangerous to rely on it - to assume that a lack of pings meant no infectious encounters whatever. 

And indeed there is currently plenty of evidence that a ping can be a false alarm. So I've come to see the app as an unreliable tool, liable to misinform - like a dodgy warning light in a car that winks on and off, and may mean something, but probably means nothing.
Does it have other worthwhile uses? Hmm...

It has always looked good to switch the app on, and scan the QR code with one's phone when entering restaurants and pubs. In fact, in recent months that's all I have used the app for. But a paper-and-pen alternative has always existed, and that takes no longer. It's no great effort to write my name and phone number on a form. Some places actually seem to prefer the manual method, getting the necessary contact information physically down on a form (or noted on a tablet) - presumably to be quite certain about harvesting those details, so that their back is covered. 

If anything will now make me re-install the app, it will be to facilitate QR code scanning, should relying on paper-and-pen become a chore.  

Meanwhile, I regard myself as low-risk. Consider these points: 

# I've mentioned before (see my post Greetings from the Ice Station! dated 18th October 2020) that, in ordinary circumstances, I am away from people and entirely on my own for 93% of the hours in a week. I live a very solitary life!  

# When I do see other people, it's usually in a socially-distanced way - masked if in a shop. 

# My friends are all of an age where taking care over infection matters, so we are mutually 'safe' for each other, even if we have never formed a formal bubble. 

# I travel about in my car, alone. Boat travel is a once-a-year thing; train travel is hardly less unusual. I dislike buses and avoid them; the same with air travel, and in fact my last flight was eleven years ago.    

# I am never in a crowd. 

# I have no partner, and am intimate with nobody. 

# There are no children in my daily life: a close encounter with a child is most unusual. 

# I do not work, so there are no commuting or office encounters; nor am I exposed to clients. 

I can easily avoid nearly all close contacts with strangers, both at home and on holiday. I therefore run only a low risk of getting infected and passing anything on. And it follows that, for me, the app is superfluous. Given my circumstances, and given my willingness to continue with proven anti-infection measures, I really can't see how the app adds anything important to my safety - or to other people's safety. 

I don't like having a 'surveillance' app on my phone. But in a sense all apps watch you - certainly Google's - and 'being monitored' is not my objection. I simply dislike having anything installed that doesn't serve me in a meaningful way, and whose indications aren't totally reliable. Frankly, I think the shelf life of the current NHS Covid-19 app has expired. I'd be happy to look at a new app that met current needs better, but I haven't the slightest pang about removing the old one. 

Well, it's gone. That can't of course stop someone from Test and Trace contacting me by voice call, email or text, requiring me to self-isolate. I can't (and won't) ignore that, however inconvenient it might be. It's a legal order, with a thumping fine for non-compliance, and I'd expect T&T to check up on me from time to time, to ensure that I really am doing my ten days at home. 

Best to keep that home freezer well-stocked!

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