Now you'll need to use the NHS Covid-19 app for EVERY single pub visit

Now you’ll need to use the NHS Covid-19 app for EVERY single pub visit

The guidance about how to use the NHS Covid-19 app has changed (Image: GETTY • NHS • PICTURE POSED BY MODEL)

As restrictions begin to ease across England and Wales, smartphone owners will once again be asked to use the NHS Covid-19 app to keep tabs on their movements by scanning QR codes when they enter a shop, restaurant, bar, gym, hair-dresser or business. Unlike last year, Britons have been advised to check-in individually with the NHS Covid-19 app from now on.

When restrictions eased last summer, one member of a group could scan a QR code for the entire party. However, that has changed. Each member of a group or family will need to scan the QR code on their own smartphone, or sign-in physically with the venue if they don’t have a smartphone. The change is designed to speed up contact-tracing. If someone with coronavirus is found to have visited the venue at the same time, the NHS track and trace will be able to issue alerts to everyone in the venue… not just one person from each group.

The rationale is that asking everyone to check-in using the NHS Covid-19 app each time they enter a venue will speed up the process of informing people about local outbreaks. Previously, with only the group leader signing in, it was up to them to inform the rest of the group if someone who tested positive had been in the same business when they visited. But no more! Now, the notification will be sent out to everyone’s NHS Covid-19 app – so the responsibility doesn’t fall to a single person.

To coincide with the new feature, the Government has designed its NHS QR code posters, which venues must legally display. The new design makes them easier to use, the Government claims.

The guidance to check-in with the QR code with every visit – regardless of who else in your party has signed-in – was supposed to roll-out as part of a much larger feature-packed update on Android and iOS. However, Apple and Google have blocked the update from rolling out to users across England and Wales because it breaks the terms and conditions of their joint contact-tracing technology.

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The Department Of Health had planned for the update to roll-out 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 venue check-ins, which are handled with the large QR codes outside shops, pubs, and restaurants, if they tested positive. This information, which would track which venues they had visited while potentially being contagious with the virus, would be used to warn others.

However, Apple and Google have explicitly banned this functionality. These limits were put in place from the start by the two US tech companies.

The problem with the latest update from the Department of Health was that it allowed the Government to receive a history of your movements. By sharing the venue check-in information after a positive test, the Government would be able to see your recent movements in explicit detail, from the shops you visited that morning to the restaurants and pubs. This is something that Apple and Google do not want their technology used for.

While the system is able to alert users who have been in close proximity with someone who later tests positive – that information is not shared with any other organisations or governments.

In order to use the system developed by Apple and Google – which is made available for free, health authorities have to agree not to collect any location data using the contact-tracking software. After all, it’s easy to see how this data could be used maliciously by governments and law enforcement across the globe.


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