NHS COVID-19 app is trying to tell Android users something but buggy notification appears stuck on 'Loading...' screen

The suspense could quite literally be killing us


NHS England's COVID-19 app developed a case of the borks overnight as Android users were presented with mystery notifications that never seemed to finish loading.

The app had a troubled start in life last year as homegrown efforts initially foundered before a second crack at contact chasing emerged towards the end of summer. A further tweak in autumn added support for the contact-tracing API co-developed by Google and Apple and, by version 3.9, the app claimed to banish the curse of "ghost notifications" of "possible exposure".

Notifications of a different nature are now plaguing many Android users. Even this hack's Galaxy S10 has not proven immune, with an initially heart-stopping notification appearing that, on further inspection, simply said "Loading…"

NHS COVID-19 app notification

Click to enlarge

The Register contacted the Department of Health and Social Care, and a spokesperson told us: "We are aware of an issue affecting Android users of the NHS COVID-19 app who are receiving a loading screen notification. We are working with Google to urgently investigate and resolve the issue as soon as possible."

We also understand that receiving the "Loading..." notification doesn't mean isolation is required. The rest of the app (booking a test and entering test results, checking symptoms, and doing the venue-scanning fandango) is apparently working normally.

Still, it's a bit worrying for already jumpy users. There is the danger that some might deal with the notification problem by simply deleting the app, or turning off important services in an effort to make it go away.

While those staffing the NHS COVID-19 app Twitter account have been bombarded by users asking pretty much the same question, a thread on GitHub (thanks to Register reader David Gosnell for the tip) has gone into more technical detail. Some users have reported turning background activities off and on again deals with the issue (at least temporarily) while others reported no exposure uploads since yesterday.

We've put both the latter points to the Department of Health and Social Care and will update should a response be forthcoming. ®

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