HSE says fix for Covid Tracker app rolled out to all Android users

Users reported overheating and rapid depletion in battery over the weekend

Since the Covid Tracker app launched on July 7th, 137 people have received close contact alerts. Photograph: iStock

Since the Covid Tracker app launched on July 7th, 137 people have received close contact alerts. Photograph: iStock

 

The Health Service Executive has reassured users of its contact tracing app that a software update sent out to all Android users would solve an issue with battery life that caused 83,000 people to delete the app from their phones.

Users of the app began reporting problems over the weekend, saying devices were showing a rapid depletion in battery and in some cases were experiencing heat issues.

Some of the app’s 1.5 million users deleted it from their devices in an attempt to solve the problem, but the HSE said 10,000 had already reinstalled the app.

“The HSE worked with Google and NearForm over the weekend to fix the problem. HSE, NearForm and Google have also implemented additional measures to improve the resilience of the Exposure Notifications System and ensure that these types of issues will not arise again,” the HSE said.

“Google have informed us that the majority of Android phones in Ireland have been updated but it may take a day or so for every Android phone to receive the update. We would encourage anyone that uninstalled the app at the weekend to download it again over the next few days.”

The HSE apologised to users and clarified that uninstalling the app would not delete any close contacts that were recorded on the phone in the past 14 days.

Although the exact cause of the issue has not been confirmed, the battery problems appear to have been limited to users of the Irish app, and largely affected those on Android.

Exposure

The exposure notifications system was developed by Google and Apple to facilitate contact tracing apps’ access to Bluetooth, and to 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.

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 generated by their phone to anonymously alert people who they were in close contact with.