NHS Covid-19 app users sent incorrect risk-level change alerts | World news

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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.

“We live in Walsall and it is classed as HIGH risk,” one user tweeted on Friday.

“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?”

Tier one – medium

  • The “rule of six” applies, meaning socialising in groups larger than six people is prohibited whether indoors or outdoors.
  • Tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work and are not counted as being part of the six-person limit.
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate but pubs and restaurants must ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and close between 10pm and 5am.
  • Takeaway food can continue to be sold after 10pm if ordered by phone or online.
  • Schools and universities remain open.
  • Places of worship remain open but people must not mingle in a group of more than six.
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of people who can attend (15 and 30 respectively).
  • Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors, and – if the rule of six is followed – indoors.

Tier two – high

  • People are prohibited from socialising with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting.
  • Tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work.
  • The rule of six continues to apply for socialising outdoors, for instance in a garden or public space like a park or beach.
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate but pubs and restaurants must ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and close between 10pm and 5am.
  • Takeaway food can continue to be sold after 10pm if ordered online or by phone.
  • Schools and universities remain open.
  • Places of worship remain open but people must not mingle in a group of more than six.
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of people who can attend (15 and 30 respectively).
  • Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors but will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with those they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), or for youth or disability sport.
  • Travel is permitted to amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but people are advised to reduce the number of journeys where possible.

Tier three – very high

  • People are prohibited from socialising with anybody they do not live with, or have not formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting, private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events.
  • Tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work.
  • The rule of six continues to apply to outdoor public spaces, such as parks, beaches, public gardens or sports venues.
  • Pubs and bars are only permitted to remain open to operate as restaurants, in which case alcohol can only be served as part of a substantial meal.
  • Schools and universities remain open.
  • Places of worship remain open but household mixing is not permitted.
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of people attending (15 and 30 respectively) but wedding receptions are not allowed.
  • The rules for exercise classes and organised sport are the same as in tier 2. They can continue to take place outdoors but will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), or for youth or disability sport. However, in Merseyside, gyms were ordered to close when it entered tier 3.
  • Travelling outside a very high alert level area or entering a very high alert level area should be avoided other than for things such as work, education or youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if travelling through as part of a longer journey.
  • Residents of a tier 3 area should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK, while people who live in a tier 1 or tier 2 area should avoid staying overnight in a very high alert level area.

Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

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 version of 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.

NHS COVID-19 app
(@NHSCOVID19app)

From this morning, #NHSCOVID19app users who live in a postcode district where the Local COVID Alert Level has been changed to reflect the latest Government guidance, you will receive an alert during the course of the day notifying you of the change.

➡️ https://t.co/rzgGGmuV13


October 17, 2020

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.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: NHS Covid-19 app users sent incorrect risk-level change alerts | World news

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