After my email last week about the trials and tribulations of the covid tracing app, I’ve had a few people asking about changes to the settings on their phones.
Last week, both Apple and Google rolled out changes that included the new “covid-19 notifications” system that I was telling you about last week. It’s not a new app. It doesn’t do anything on its own – it’s just there so that a tracing app would work if we had one!
Here’s how to find it on your phone if you want a look:
On Android phones: Open the settings app and tap on “Google” – there should be a new “COVID-19 exposure notifications” setting at the top of the list.
On iPhones: Open the settings app and tap on “Privacy”, then “Health” – their version is called “COVID-19 Exposure Logging”.
You’ll notice that they’re turned off at the moment – and they’ll stay that way for the time being at least. You see, these changes don’t really affect us here in the UK, because we don’t have a tracing app to install. All Apple and Google have done is update their systems so that it’s possible to use a tracing app when (or if) the government get one they’re happy with. Only official government apps that have been approved for the app stores on your phones will ever be able to turn that setting on. And you’ll have to actively choose to install the app first.
So why have Apple and Google bothered making it so visible if it’s just a behind-the-scenes thing? It’s so that if an app exists, and if you’ve chosen to install it, you can see what data has been recorded on your phone and delete it if you want to. With the Apple-Google system, this information only ever gets stored on your phone – nothing is saved to a central database – so if you delete it from here, it’s gone for good.
If you’ve got an older phone, you might find that it can’t get this update – in which case, you wouldn’t be able to use a tracing app on that phone, either.
Visits to the pub when they open again
Another thing I’ve been reading about lately is the rules for when pubs and restaurants re-open – this coming Saturday if they’ve got themselves ready in time.
As part of the contact-tracing system, there’s going to be a rule that pubs and restaurants have to take your name and contact details – so that if one of the other visitors gets ill, it’s possible to track you down and warn you to self-isolate. It’s a very sensible idea, I think, but it’ll be interesting to see how pubs go about doing it.
In New Zealand, there’s a fancy app-based system where you scan a QR code at the entrance to the pub, then they scan a QR code on your phone when you order. That way you’ve got a record of where you’ve been, and they’ve got a record of who’s been in – nifty.
Some of the big chains are talking about using apps or websites for you to type in your details and order your food and drinks, so you can keep contact with the staff to an absolute minimum. And a lot of restaurants are only going to accept pre-booked parties, at least to begin with. So if you do fancy an evening out, make sure you find out what the rules are at your venue of choice before you head out.
You might find that little independent locals go for a slightly lower-tech solution, though, so having a pen in your pocket when you go out might be a sensible move too!