October 14, 2020 10.17 am This story is over 36 months old

Confusion over exposure and alert levels on COVID-19 app

Tech handshake blamed for ‘phantom notifications’

Update: Read the latest here

People using the NHS COVID-19 app, including many in Lincolnshire, have received so-called ‘phantom notifications’ and conflicting information about the local alert level.

People have reported receiving notifications including “Possible COVID-19 exposure. Someone you were near reported having COVID-19. Exposure date, duration and signal strength have been saved.”

When the notification was tapped on, it would disappear and show no further information within the app, which was launched after several delays on September 24.

The app was updated on October 13 so users who receive a default exposure notification from Apple or Google do not need to take any action and will now be sent a follow-up message from the app making this clear.

The message will read: “COVID-19 Exposure Check Complete. Don’t worry, we have assessed your risk and there is no need to take action at this time. Please continue to stay alert and follow the latest advice on social distancing.”

These particular alerts do not always indicate that you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive and the “default messages” instead reminds users that the functionality is working, according to the Express.

The ‘Exposure Notifications’ are default privacy notifications from Apple and Google to alert you that the app is sharing information with the Application Programming Interface – the software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to one another.

It has since been confirmed that Apple or Google notifications may be called COVID-19 Exposure Logging or COVID-19 Exposure Notifications and sometimes it may seem as though these messages disappear or you cannot click on them.

It is advised that anyone concerned or confused when they receive a notification should open the app and take the advice from inside the app.

A recent message about alert levels on the COVID-19 app has caused confusion.

Lincolnshire is currently in the medium (tier one) category, but there has been confusion over local COVID alert levels with messages on the app such as “LN6 includes areas in Local COVID Alert Level: Medium and Local COVID Alert Level: High”.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “NHS COVID-19 app users only need to self-isolate if they get a notification directly from the app advising them to do so.”