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Covid-19 app update fixes ‘ghost notifications’ and improves Bluetooth accuracy

The UK’s coronavirus contact tracing app has received an update designed to stop those anxiety-inducing ‘ghost notifications’ incorrectly instructing people to self isolate.

The update to the NHS Covid-19 app will improve the app’s accuracy in identifying close contacts and will prevent the unnecessary exposure notifications, the government said on Thursday.

The mobile now runs on the latest version of the Apple and Google API, which will mean it is better equipped to estimate the distance between two Bluetooth devices. “This update increases the accuracy, meaning those most at risk will be notified to self-isolate,” says Mark Briers of The Alan Turing Institute.

Related: How to download the Covid-19 app

The app has been heavily criticised heavily by analysts and users for the inaccuracy of the Bluetooth readouts, which it uses to determine whether two individuals have been in close contact. Now the app can “better assess whether someone is at risk of having caught the virus and therefore needs to isolate,” the press release says.

However, it’s the ‘ghost notifications’ informing people they have been exposed to the virus that have been giving Brits kittens since the app’s launch last month. Now, those receiving notifications can be more confident it isn’t a false alarm.

“This update builds on that success by increasing accuracy, and also removing ‘ghost’ exposure notifications, meaning users will only be notified if they need to self-isolate,” said NHS Test and Trace Director of Product, Gaby Appleton.

The government says the app has now been downloaded by 19 million people in the UK. That’s 40% of the people with eligible smartphones, so there’s still a long way to go. Today’s press release also reveals that 680,000 QR codes have been scanned at businesses around the UK, as the nation struggles to break the transmission of the illness.

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