Users of the NHS coronavirus app for England and Wales have reported receiving confused notifications that the level of risk in their area has changed in a way that contradicts official government guidelines.The Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC) said on Saturday it had identified and fixed the issue, which affected updates to the app’s postcode alert system on Friday night.
“We live in Walsall and he is classified as HIGH risk,” a user tweeted Friday.
“Why did we all get an alert saying that our risk level has changed due to ‘increased risk levels’ … but it is now MEDIUM? It’s very confusing… what is it? “
Another user, who lives in Wakefield, complained about being informed by the app on their iPhone that their area is listed as medium risk, but that they are considered high risk by the app on their Android device. On Saturday, the iPhone had corrected itself, he confirmed.
Meanwhile, users in London said the alert on their app still has not changed from medium to high in accordance with Level 2 lockdown restrictions that went into effect at midnight on Friday.
Ian Grundy, who lives in the London Borough of Hillingdon, said his app indicated his area was at both high and medium risk.
In response to a wave of complaints on Twitter, the official app account highlighted a “frequently asked questions” page on the NHS website. The FAQ page explains that postcode districts do not correspond exactly to local authorities, and therefore multiple alert levels may apply to a particular postcode district.
On Saturday, he said users living in postcode neighborhoods where the alert level was changed to reflect the latest government guidelines would receive an alert during the day to notify them of the change.
Previously, the app had three alert levels: low, medium, and high. These have now been updated to match the Medium, High, and Super High levels of the three-level locking system introduced this week.
Jeremy Place, an information security specialist, told Sky News that as many as 4 million people could have received incorrect updates by what he described as “a big finger error.”
This likely 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 revert to the old system, triggering a message saying “the level of risk in your area has changed”.
A DHSC spokesperson said, “We are aware of an issue that has impacted ZIP code alert updates for some app users tonight.
“This issue was identified and resolved within an hour, and users’ phones will automatically update to display the correct local alert level for their region, along with new instructions. “
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