Covid-19 app updated after language issue

By Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent
·2-min read

The NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app for England and Wales has received an update after an issue around unsupported languages left some unable to access it.

The Guardian reported that users who had their phones set to languages other than the 12 initially supported by the app were met with a blank screen when attempting to use it.

This included Spanish, French and Italian speakers, who were told to change their device language to English in order to use the contact tracing software.

After concerns were raised about accessibility for non-English speakers and foreign visitors to England and Wales who wanted to use the app for contact tracing, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said an update would be rolled out to show the text of the app in English if their device was not set to one of the supported languages.

This update now appears to have already gone live for some users, with both iPhone and Android handsets set to unsupported languages correctly opening and displaying app text in English when tested.

“The NHS Covid-19 app is currently available in a dozen languages and with over 18 million downloads so far it is helping to curb the spread of the virus,” a DHSC spokesman said.

At launch, the app was made available in Arabic, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Simplified Mandarin Chinese, Turkish, Urdu, Romanian, Polish and Somali as well as English and Welsh.

The incident is the latest in a number of software issues to have hit the app since its launch on September 24.

Earlier this month a so-called “phantom alert” which suggested someone may have been exposed to the virus caused panic and confusion among those who received it as some reported that the notification would disappear when tapped and show no further information within the app.

At the time, DHSC said these were default privacy notifications from Apple and Google – who created the underlying technology – to alert people that the app is sharing information with the system.

It then released an update which sends a follow-up notification which tells users the exposure check has been completed and whether they need to take any further action.