The UK Government has abandoned its efforts to develop its own coronavirus contact-tracing app in order to focus on technology from Apple and Google.

In a major U-turn, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Thursday (June 18) that efforts would be targeted on developing a programme to support the NHS Test and Trace service based on the tech giants’ model.

But no date was being set for the roll-out, despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock having previously said the key app would be available in mid-May.

Officials said the Government’s app, which was being trialled on the Isle of Wight, was highly inaccurate when used on iPhones, only identifying about 4 per cent of contacts.

They said they hoped to feed their research into the Apple-Google project, suggesting that the trialled app is superior when dealing with distances between individuals.

Baroness Harding, the executive chair of NHS Test and Trace and Matthew Gould, the chief executive of the NHSX technology wing of the health service, said there had been “specific technical challenges”.

“Our response to this virus has and will continue to be as part of an international effort,” they said in a joint statement.

“That is why as part of a collaborative approach we have agreed to share our own innovative work on estimating distance between app users with Google and Apple, work that we hope will benefit others, while using their solution to address some of the specific technical challenges identified through our rigorous testing.”

Mr Hancock said ministers “remain determined to continue in our ambition” to develop an app that “meets the technical, security and user needs of the public”.

“Countries across the globe have faced challenges in developing an app which gets all of these elements right, but through ongoing international collaboration we hope to learn, improve and find a solution which will strengthen our global response to this virus,” he added.

The tech giants’ design enables more of people’s data to be kept private, which means the Government would have less access to figures on where coronavirus outbreaks are occurring.

But the DHSC said an app would “bring together the functionality required to carry out contact tracing” while enabling people to order tests and access advice.

The development came after figures showed that almost three-quarters of people who test positive for coronavirus and enter the NHS tracking system are now being manually traced.

Some 14,045 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England had their case transferred to the Test and Trace contact tracing system during the first two weeks of its operation, according to the figures.

Of these, 10,192 people (73 per cent) were reached and asked to provide details of recent contacts.

Some 3,435 (25 per cent) people were not reached and a further 418 (3 per cent) did not provide contact details.

An app to aid those tracing the contacts of people who test positive for Covid-19 has been seen as a key part of preventing a second wave of infections and deaths.

Officials acknowledged that significant issues remain with the Apple-Google technology but they hope it will be ready by the autumn-winter flu season, a crucial point when many could exhibit coronavirus-like symptoms even if they do not have the disease.

It is understood that field tests on the tech giants’ model began on May 6 in parallel to the Isle of Wight trial.