Even if the restrictions end this summer … anyone planning a vacation abroad needs the NHS Covid-19 app
If you haven’t downloaded the NHS Covid-19 app on your iPhone or Android yet, you’re out of excuses. The smartphone app, which is designed to track the spread of the disease and alert people when they’ve been around someone infected and need to isolate themselves, has seen a number of changes lately. As restrictions started to disappear in the UK, a change to the rules now requires every visit to have the NHS Covid-19 app and use the ‘Check In’ feature when entering a restaurant, pub, shop, gym, hairdresser or company.
Previously, a single member of a group of friends or family could ‘check in’ – usually with a QR code. This was enough to let the whole group in. However, each individual member will now have to scan the QR code to register their visit with the NHS smartphone app. The change is intended to speed up contact tracking. If it turns out that someone with the coronavirus has visited the site at the same time, the NHS track and trace can issue alerts to everyone in the site … not just one person from each group. It is also possible to physically log in to the location if a member of the group does not have a smartphone.
The NHS Covid-19 app not only lists all the locations you have visited in the past few weeks, it also becomes an even more important part of everyday life.
That’s because Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed that the government plans to upgrade the existing NHS Covid-19 app, which has already clocked 10,000,000 downloads on Android phones, to function as a vaccine passport. This will be shown when you travel internationally to prove that you have had the required Covid-19 vaccines.
Digital certificates are accepted as proof that you have had a Covid-19 shot and / or received a negative test result, have confirmed proposals from the European Union. For those looking to travel beyond the British coast to Europe this summer, this is a promising sign. But instead of creating an entirely new smartphone app that functions as a digital certificate for travel, the transportation secretary unveiled the current plan to add the functionality to the existing NHS Covid-19 app.
The NHSX team is actively looking to add vaccination passports to the app
In an interview on Sky News, Grant Shapps confirmed, “In terms of vaccine certification, I can confirm that we are working on an NHS application, it will in fact be the NHS app used for people when they book appointments with the NHS, and so on. . to prove that you have had a vaccine or that you have been tested. I work internationally with partners around the world to ensure that that system can be internationally recognized, because that is the way forward. “
It comes a few days after Spain’s tourism minister, Fernando Valdes Verelst, told an international summit that his country plans to welcome tourists again – including those from the UK – from June 2021.
It seems that anyone hoping that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that “all restrictions” will be lifted in England by June 21, 2021 would mean removing the NHS Covid-19 app from your iPhone or Android smartphone. Whether it’s tracking infection rates across the country – known as the R number – or being questioned at the border before leaving on a two-week summer break, it seems increasingly likely that the NHS will see Covid-19- app is there to stay ahead of the foreseeable.
The news comes a few days later political blog Guido Fawkes found a vacancy from the Department of Health and Social Care to help develop “digital and non-digital options to enable UK residents to confirm their Covid status, including both vaccination history and test results.” In conjunction with the NHSX team, which is behind the NHS Covid-19 app, the role will take place in Leeds or London.
I hope that when these digital vaccine certificates are complete, the rollout will be better than the latest planned update to the NHS Covid-19 app. Last month, ahead of the reopening of non-essential stores and outdoor dining, the NHSX team planned to launch a feature-packed update on Android and iOS. However, Apple and Google have blocked the rollout of the update in England and Wales because the new flagship feature violates the terms and conditions of the contact tracking technology developed by the two California firms.
The Department of Health had planned the update to coincide with the new rules in England and Wales from April 12, 2021. The team had coded the update to the NHS Covid-19 app to upload a backlog of their location check. ins, which are handled with the big QR codes outside of shops, pubs and restaurants when tested positive. This information, which would keep track of the locations they had visited while potentially contagious with the virus, would be used to alert others.
However, Apple and Google have explicitly prohibited this functionality. These limits were introduced from the start by the two American technology companies.
The problem with the latest Health Ministry update was that it allowed the government to receive a history of your movements. Sharing the location’s check-in information after a positive test would allow the government to see your recent movements in explicit detail, from the shops you visited that morning to the restaurants and pubs. This is something Apple and Google do not want their technology to be used for.
While the system can alert users who have been around someone who later tests positive, that information is not shared with other organizations or governments.
To use the system developed by Apple and Google – which is made available for free, health authorities must agree not to collect location data using the contact tracking software. After all, it’s easy to see how this data could be maliciously used by governments and law enforcement around the world.
Since the latest update submitted to Apple and Google for the NHS Covid-19 app violates these rules, iPhone and Android users have not received the update as planned. Instead, Apple and Google will continue to make the previous version available in the App Store and Google Play Store respectively.
When asked why the technology’s terms and conditions were diverted, the Health Department declined to discuss how the slip took place. Instead, a spokesperson told the BBC, “The implementation of the NHS Covid-19 app functionality to allow users to upload their location history has been delayed. This will not affect the functionality of the app and we continue to engage with our partners to provide useful updates to the app that protect the public. “
Scotland has bypassed the block because it offers two apps to the public. While Protect Scotland uses Apple and Google’s privacy-focused system, it also offers Check In Scotland, which is built on a proprietary system that shares the site’s history with authorities.
The UK government initially avoided Apple and Google’s free-to-use contact tracking system due to its focus on privacy. By developing its own rival system, the British government wanted to preserve the location data of smartphone owners.
The planned app, which cost £ 12 million and took three months to develop, was unable to accurately detect contact between iPhone and Android due to Bluetooth restrictions imposed on the operating system by Google and Apple. This restriction is to prevent background applications (ie not always displayed on the screen) from constantly checking Bluetooth connections to keep an eye on nearby users.
This is a privacy concern – do you really want Facebook, for example, to keep track of all the people you met on the street today? However, the limitation is also intended to prevent the battery from draining seriously. Unfortunately, the feature prevented the NHS app from finding 25 percent of Android phones and 96 percent of iPhone owners.
As such, it was dropped and the UK government used the freely available – albeit more limited due to restrictions on location data – option from Apple and Google.
The UK was not the only country to reject Apple and Google’s privacy-centric approach, Germany, Italy and Denmark also sought to create their own system that would work as effectively as the one created by the Silicon Valley companies behind the operational activities. system.
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