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The NHS Covid-19 contact-tracing app does not work for hundreds of thousands of people in England and Wales whose phones are set to unsupported languages, including French, Spanish and Portuguese.
As well as English and Welsh, the app is localised into 10 other languages, including Bengali, Simplified Chinese, Urdu and Polish. Speakers of those languages can use the app in their own language.
But for those who have their phone set to an unsupported language, the app fails to display any text at all – not even falling back to English. Instead, the app displays completely blank screens.
The official support page for the app offers no advice other than telling users to switch their phone to a supported language – even though that then means that every other app they use may be in a language they speak poorly or not at all.
Sebastiano Assino was one affected user. “The advice of changing language on the users’ phones is not great in my opinion. When looking at the list of available translations you can see that out of the European languages there’s only Polish and Romanian.
“That means the phone won’t display the app properly for any other language used and the user would be forced to switch their phone to English in order to have a functioning app.”
Assino’s flatmate, an Italian speaker, uninstalled the app, assuming it was broken, as a result of the bug.
The number of affected users is high. French, Spanish and Portuguese all have more than 100,000 speakers in England and Wales, according to the ONS, and some regions have high concentrations of an unsupported language: 3.6% of the population of Harrow, north-west London, speak Tamil, for instance, while 6.2% of Rushmoor in Hampshire speak Nepali.
The limitation will also affect visitors to the UK, who may be particularly unwilling to change their devices to English, or another supported language, for the short period of time they are in the country, and so will be unable to take part in the contact tracing.
Carl Uminski, the chief operating officer and co-founder of Somo, a digital product agency, said: “If this app was for any other business it would be seen as a failure. I think the way it has been put together seems disjointed and what we were expecting from it – notifying and letting people know real info on control of the virus – has been almost forgotten. The simplicity of what it actually does should make it more likely to work and to also be able to do so much more.
“We live in a very multicultural society with a market open for all and so there should be no question about it being available across a large number of languages without any problems. It’s such a basic app; it shouldn’t have this sticking point – and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see further problems come to light. If we had put this application together for a client, they would understandably be dissatisfied with the result.”
The news comes after the NHS app silently stopped working for many users who had switched to Apple’s new iPhones over the weekend.
When users upgraded their devices, the app was transferred over from the old phone to the new. But a privacy setting required to make it work defaulted to “off” on the new phones, even if users had previously had it turned on.
Adding confusion to the problem, the official Twitter account for the app initially blamed the new iPhones, telling users in a now-deleted tweet that they were not supported, rather than sharing information about how to change the privacy setting.
The required setting can be found in the iPhones settings menu, under “Exposure Notifications”.
The NHS has been contacted for comment.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: NHS Covid app does not work for phones set to French and Spanish | World news