The NHS Test and Trace app has been sending users ‘confusing’ messages which suggest they have been near someone with coronavirus – with no further information.

Several users have reported receiving a notification that reads: ‘Possible Covid-19 exposure. Verifying exposure info. The app has accessed the date, duration and signal strength of this exposure.’ 

Posting on social media, many people described the message as ‘terrifying’ and said it was unclear as to whether they needed to take any action. 

One person asked: ‘Matt Hancock can you please explain/ clarify confusing and scary “exposure notifications” that don’t come with instructions to self-isolate? My daughter, a med student, woke up to a notification and is now terrified in case she infects others or gets ill.

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The government has said people only need to self-isolate if they are specifically and clearly told to do so by the app in a second message. 

The first notification is only sent after a user’s phone picks up that it has been near another person who has indicated a positive coronavirus test. 

They will then receive a second notification if further examination of the data shows a reasonable chance of them being at risk. This will then ask the person to self-isolate. 

The NHS website says: ‘If someone tests positive for coronavirus (Covid-19), the app’s risk-scoring algorithm uses this data to make calculations about risk and work out who should get an alert.’

The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘These are default notifications that come from Apple and Google. NHS Covid-19 app users only need to self-isolate if they get a notification directly from the app advising them to do so.

‘The app uses Apple and Google Exposure Notifications plus a risk-scoring algorithm to filter out “false alarms” based on distance and time. This is the same Apple and Google Exposure Notification software used on covid apps in other countries.’

A research and adviser on the app, David Bonson, of Oxford University’s Nuffield Department for Medicine, told Radio 4 yesterday: ‘Any notification to isolate will be absolutely crystal clear within the app.

‘If you don’t have anything within the app telling you to do something, you don’t need to worry.’ 

The notification telling people to self-isolate should say: ‘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.’

The app has had a bumpy introduction to the UK with numerous delays, such as people stating they couldn’t upload their tests, the app not being able to share their negative results, and only working on newer phones with bluetooth. 

The Government has encouraged people to use the technology with the Department of Health saying: ‘If more people use the app and self-isolate when alerted, we can keep each other safe and stop infection rates rising.’

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