Some people are receiving false coronavirus exposure alerts - here's how to tell if yours is real

Thursday, 1st October 2020, 3:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st October 2020, 4:06 pm
The alert has caused much confusion among app-users (Photo: Shutterstock)

Coronavirus exposure notifications have been appearing on some people's phones - then disappearing as soon as they're opened.

A message reading, "Someone you were near reported having Covid-19. Exposure date, duration and signal strength have been saved" has been appearing as a notification for some users of the new NHS Covid-19 app.

Upon clicking on the message, it disappears, and no information is given on what steps to take next.

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The alert in fact is part of Google and Apple system checks, and has caused a great deal of confusion among those who've received it - even resulting in unnecessary self-isolation.

'A default message'

The Department of Health and Social Care said the message should be ignored, as it's simply a "default message" sent by Google and Apple.

A legitimate Test and Trace instruction to self-isolate will produce a message inside the official Covid-19 app reading, "The app has detected that you have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus. Please stay at home and self-isolate to keep yourself and others safe."

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care also confirmed that a false alert - from Google and Apple - will simply disappear and not allow the phone user to click on it.

Apple or Google notifications will be called "COVID-19 Exposure Notifications" or "COVID-19 EXPOSURE LOGGING". It is reportedly not possible at current to turn off the notifications.

False alerts

The problem seems to be confined to England and Wales, with other countries using the same technology reportedly not experiencing the same problems.

It's not known how many false alerts have been sent out, but dozens of people have reported receiving them on social media, sometimes more than once per day.

One said, "Have I been 'traced'?"

Another wrote, "I got a notification that [someone] near me had tested positive... No information of it whatsoever in the app. What's the point?"

Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish in Greater Manchester, tweeted that he had received "three messages this evening. I've not even been out of the house today. Mrs G got several yesterday."

Commenting on the confusion regarding the false alerts, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Sky News, "NHS Covid-19 app users only need to self-isolate if they get a notification directly from the app advising them to do so."