As culture secretary, Matt Hancock developed a taste for technology, even launching his own eponymous social network in February 2018. But now as health secretary it appears his appetite for big data has grown ever greater. Not content with launching the NHS Covid app as part of a £22 billion test and trace scheme, his latest wheeze is to partner up with the UK's most popular dating devices including Tinder, Bumble and Hinge to boost vaccine uptake.
Examples include Tinder launching a 'vaccine centre' to offer a 'suite of resources to educate and connect members' with their nearest vaccination site. Those on the app will also get the chance to add stickers to their profile such as 'I'm vaccinated' or 'vaccines save lives'. For Hinge devotees, participants get a free 'Rose' to indicate to other users that 'they're excited to get to know them' while an AI-enabled 'dating coach' on the app Match will encourage users to get a badge. Not all the dating sites are signed up: popular Muslim dating app Muzmatch is included for instance but Grindr is not.
The justification for this is that while providing vaccination status on these apps is optional 'data has shown that people are more likely to date someone who has received a COVID-19 vaccination.' A recent YouGov poll is quoted by the health department which shows that 31 per cent of adults would prefer to date someone vaccinated and a further 28 per cent would not date someone unless they had received the jab. Hancock is quoted as being 'thrilled' at the prospect of 'partnering up with dating apps' declaring 'this is another incredible asset to our vaccination programme.'
Not everyone in Westminster agrees of course. One enraged parliamentary source told Mr S: 'We're in the final stages of the pandemic and still Matt Hancock thinks it's okay for Government to directly interfere in people's dating lives.' Steerpike wonders whether the (multiple) Labour and Tory MPs known to use these apps will be joining in the efforts to showcase their vaccine status in the weeks ahead.