Boris Johnson has been confronted over his claim that no country has a working contact-tracing app, after 12m downloads were made in Germany.

Keir Starmer ridiculed the prime minister for denying the UK had been left in the slow lane – after his plans for an app were abandoned – telling him Berlin’s was in operation on 15 June.

“Other countries are ahead of us. When are we going to have a working app?” the Labour leader demanded to know.

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Mr Johnson provoked astonishment on Tuesday when he claimed no other country had stolen a march with the technology.

In fact, France, Australia, Singapore and Latvia are among other countries that have launched app, although uptake has been fairly low in some of those countries.

The prime minister is under pressure after the embarrassment of ditching plans for a custom-made NHS app – after £12m was spent on it – because of technical problems.

The UK is now seeking to adopt an existing model in cooperation with Apple and Google, despite previously ruling that out – and delaying introduction until “the winter”.

Put on the spot, Mr Johnson claimed the app had only ever been imagined as “the icing on the cake”, although health secretary Matt Hancock repeatedly argued it was essential to preventing infection spikes.

And, despite apps being used in numerous countries, he insisted: “If we can get it to work it’ll be a fine thing, but there isn’t one anywhere in the world so far.”

The two leaders also clashed over the physical track-and-trace system, Sir Keir claiming two-thirds of Covid-19 cases were not being successfully contacted.

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“The prime minister risks making the mistakes he made at the beginning of the pandemic, brushing aside challenge, dashing forward, not estimating properly the risks,” he warned.

“If two-thirds of those with Covid-19 are not being contacted that is a big problem, because if we don’t get track, trace and isolate properly running we can’t open the economy, we can’t prevent infection spreading.”

He added: “What is the government’s strategy for closing the gap between the number of people with Covid-19 and those going into the system, not what happens to those that go into the system?”

But Mr Johnson replied: “The 33,000 cases in the country is, of course, an estimate.

“What NHS test and-trace is doing is contacting the vast majority of those who test positive and their own contacts and getting them to self-isolate, and it is a formidable achievement.”

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