Contact tracing app bug fixed, Google says

Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent
·2-min read

A bug in the Android version of the NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app has been fixed, Google has said.

The tech giant and the contact tracing app’s developers confirmed on Wednesday that a glitch was causing a loading notification to appear on phones which could not be removed.

Google has confirmed this was an issue with its Exposure Notification System which powers the app’s contact tracing and that it could cause a delay in exposure checks taking place, but the company has now confirmed the flaw has been fixed and no adverse effects found due to the incident.

The NHS Covid-19 app, used in England and Wales and forming part of the Test and Trace scheme, uses Bluetooth on smartphones to keep an anonymous log of other app users that an individual comes into contact with, informing them if they have been near someone who tests positive for the virus and what to do next.

“Late in the evening on January 12, an issue with the Exposure Notifications System on Android began causing delays in the checking of potential exposures for those with apps installed,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement on the incident.

“We have issued a fix. It may take a few hours for devices to catch up, and in some cases we will work directly with developers to help with recovery. The issue did not cause the loss of any data or potential exposures.”

Google said that potential exposures continued to be logged during the incident and that in most cases, any notifications delayed by the incident will resume.

The incident affected a number of contact tracing apps around the world which use the Exposure Notification System created by Google and Apple – though Apple devices were not impacted during this incident.

Earlier on Wednesday, the official Twitter account for the NHS app confirmed it was aware of the “loading screen notification” and that it was working “urgently” with Google to fix the problem.

Since launching in September, the NHS Covid-19 app has suffered from several bugs, including a “ghost notification” issue where users were sent alerts saying the app had detected a “possible Covid-19 exposure” but would then give no further instructions or details.

Another glitch saw users who had their phone set to a language other than the 12 initially supported by the app be presented with a blank screen when opening the app.