Covid Scotland: 30,000 Protect Scotland devices ‘turned off’ before Christmas

MORE than 30,000 devices using Scotland’s Covid tracing app were turned off in the run up to Christmas, according to reports.

The revelations have sparked questions over the Scottish Government’s “strict self-isolation rules”, with opposition parties suggesting people “didn’t want to miss out on Christmas so deleted the app altogether”.

However, officials claim they are “confident” the app is being used effectively, playing an “essential role” in the Test and Protect system.

The figures, obtained by STV News, show 31,797 “active users” of the Protect Scotland app turned it off from the weeks commencing October 4 to December 27.


During this time, the Omicron variant began to surge in Scotland – with the first cases identified at a “single private event” on November 20.

As cases rose, Nicola Sturgeon warned new restrictions could not be ruled out – sparking fears among many that a return to a locked-down Christmas may be a reality. The First Minister later did introduce new measures, but they were not implemented until Boxing Day.

The figures also revealed that, despite being downloaded more than 2.4 million times since its inception, only 877,550 devices were actively using the app by the end of the year.

The app, which STV News claims has cost the Scottish Government more than £900,000 as of January 21, uses Bluetooth technology as part of the track and trace system to identify if a person has been in close proximity to someone who had coronavirus.

During the same period, more than 50,000 close-contact ‘pings’ appeared on devices.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP told STV News: “The SNP’s failures on test and protect continue to mount up. Not only are they presiding over an overwhelmed system, they are simply not doing enough to encourage people to continue to use it.

“It is clear that many simply didn’t want to be caught up in the SNP’s strict self-isolation rules and miss out on Christmas so deleted the app altogether.

“If the SNP had listened sooner to Scottish Conservative calls for the isolation period to be cut to seven days, it’s likely fewer would have done so.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We continue to review the need for digital tools to help suppress transmission of the virus and are confident the Protect Scotland app provides value for money.”

They told STV News that the figures provided show active users by the device and may not be one citizen. They added that because the app is anonymous it could be that one person has it turned on two or more devices.

They added: “It is not correct to correlate a drop in daily active users with a reduction in individual citizen usage in the run up to Christmas 2021.

“The number of daily active users demonstrates the number of unique devices that are active, and therefore not a count of individual citizen usage.

“The numbers can fluctuate based on a number of circumstances such as users pausing the app because they work in the NHS, the device being powered off or whether they have Bluetooth turned on.

“We’re confident the app is working effectively and it is playing an essential role in the Test and Protect system to help suppress virus transmission.

“Between the 1st and 25th of December 2021 a total of 51,118 downloads of the Protect Scotland app were recorded.”

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