NHS Covid-19 app hit by ‘loading’ bug as users suggest fix

Users of the NHS Covid-19 app are seeing a strange – and annoying – message telling them the app is loading.

Those with the Android version of the app say that the message is showing on their phone but there is no explanation for it, or any easy way to get rid of it.

More worryingly, some report that the bug appears to stop the the exposure checking part of the app, defeating its central purpose.

The NHS Covid-19 app regularly sends out notifications as part of the way it works. As well as the important information that it alerts users to – when they have to self-isolate, or if the alert level in their area has changed, for instance – it also occasionally sends out information about what it is doing.

The new error message looks that way. It looks as if it is waiting to say something, but whatever that is will never come: the message shows that it is from “NHS Covid-19”, but says nothing else useful about what it is doing.

Users report that attempting to dismiss it, or to restart the phone entirely to get rid of it, do not seem to work.

On GitHub, where users can file issues with the app, users are reporting the problem across a variety of different devices.

Many say that the problem has stopped their phone from taking exposure checks, too. The app works by pinging other nearby phones on Bluetooth to build up a picture of who its owner might have been in contact with – and so failed exposure checks could possibly lead to people leaving the house when they should be self-isolating to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Journalist Daniel Wainwright said he had successfully fixed the problem by going into the phone’s settings and finding the notification settings option, which includes the ability to turn off the “background activities” notifications. It is important to only check that option, since the other notifications that the app sends out are key to the way it works.

That seems to stop the message coming up, since the bug is unable to show the notification, though it does not necessarily fix whatever issue has caused it to happen in the first place. That may mean that exposure logging is still not happening, even if the annoying loading message goes away.

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