NHS Covid-19 app users sent incorrect risk-level change alerts | World news
Users of the NHS coronavirus app for England and Wales have reported receiving confusing notifications that the risk level in their area has changed in ways that contradict official government guidance.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Saturday it had identified and resolved the problem, which affected updates made to the app’s postcode alert system on Friday evening.
“Why have we all received an alert saying our risk level has changed due to ‘rising risk levels’ … yet it is now MEDIUM? This is very confusing.. what is it?”
Another user, who lives in Wakefield, complained of being told by the app on his iPhone that his area is listed as being medium-risk, but that it is considered high-risk by the app on his Android device. By Saturday, the iPhone had corrected itself, he confirmed.
Meanwhile, users in London said the alert on their app had still not changed from medium to high in accordance with the tier 2 lockdown restrictions which came into effect at midnight on Friday.
Ian Grundy, who lives in the London borough of Hillingdon, said his app indicates his area is both high and medium risk.
In response a flurry of complaints on Twitter, the app’s official account pointed to a “frequently asked questions” page on the NHS website. The FAQs page explains that postcode districts do not map exactly to local authorities, and so more than one alert level may apply to a particular postcode district.
On Saturday, it said users living in postcode districts where the alert level has been changed to reflect the latest government guidance would receive an alert during the course of the day notifying them of the change.
Previously the app had three alert levels: low, medium and high. These have now been updated to correspond with the medium, high and very high levels of the three-tier lockdown system introduced this week.
Jeremy Place, an information security specialist, told Sky News that as many as 4 million people could have been sent incorrect updates by what he described as “a fat-finger error”.
This probably happened when a blank file was accidentally sent to phones instead of an alert-level update, he said. Any phone receiving the empty file would have reverted to the old system, triggering a message saying “the risk level in your area has changed”.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “We are aware of an issue which impacted updates to postcode alerts for some app users this evening.
“This was identified and resolved within an hour and users’ phones will automatically update to show the correct local alert level for their area, along with new guidance.”