Google to roll out software fix to remedy issue with Covid app

Android users had been experiencing problems with battery life but update expected to fix problems

The tracker app was developed for the HSE by Waterford company Nearform. File photograph: Getty

The tracker app was developed for the HSE by Waterford company Nearform. File photograph: Getty

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Google is set to roll out a software update to help solve an issue that saw some Android users of the Covid Tracker Ireland app experience rapid battery drain on their devices.

The issue is believed to lie with the underlying exposure notification application software rather than the Covid Tracker Ireland app, which was developed by Waterford-based Nearform for the Health Services Executive. The issue did not widely affect Apple users.

The software fix that will be pushed out to phones overnight is expected to solve the problem.

The exposure notifications system was developed by Google and Apple to facilitate contact tracing apps’ access to bluetooth and allow phones running the operating systems to swap anonymous IDs.

The app works by using the bluetooth signal on your phone to exchange a digital “handshake” with another device also running the Covid Tracker app when users come within two metres of each other for more than 15 minutes.

The anonymous keys are stored in a log on the phone, which the HSE may ask users to upload if they receive a positive diagnosis for Covid-19. That log can then be used to track unnamed contacts, with an alert delivered to affected people through the app.

Latest figures from the HSE show that as of Sunday evening, 1,573,020 people had downloaded the app.

The HSE said that on average 10,000 to 20,000 people were downloading the Covid-19 tracker app every day, with the figure tending to be higher after “bad news” such as a significant rise in the number of coronavirus cases.

However, reports of phones experiencing rapidly draining batteries caused some users to delete the app in an attempt to fix the problem. Google said earlier on Sunday it was working with the HSE to resolve the issue.

Close contacts

The number of people who have received close contact alerts through the Republic’s Covid Tracker app has reached 137 since the app was launched on July 7th.

Of those 137 close contact alerts, 129 people have subsequently chosen to speak to the HSE’s contact tracing team for advice and to be offered testing.

The HSE also revealed that 58 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 have uploaded the random IDs that have been generated by their phone in order to anonymously alert people who they were in close contact with.