back to article QR-code based contact-tracing app brings 'defining moment' for UK’s 'world beating' test and trace system

A UK government desperate for good news in the face escalating cases of COVID-19 has finally announced a launch date for its contact-tracing app, once said to be the "cornerstone" of Blighty's pandemic response. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new smartphone-based app would be available from September 24 for England and …

  1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    Hm.

    Not much use if you don't have a smartphone, as I discovered on attempting to enter a pub a few weeks ago. They had to scrabble around to find a piece of paper for me to write on...

    1. I am the liquor Bronze badge

      Re: Hm.

      If you'd held a tin of sardines up to the QR code and said "beep," would they have known any different?

      1. Long John Silver
        Pirate

        Re: Re: Hm.

        When possessing a smart-phone, scanning QR codes, and enabling Bluetooth becomes compulsory, I recommend setting the phone to ordinary still photography using flash. Thereby dimwitted enforcers will be thwarted. Immediately after admission to premises switch off the device and if feasible put it into a Farady Cage bag.

        People requiring constant phone and Internet connection will need an dimwit-phone and a tablet or other device without phone capabilities. Privacy trumps inconvenience. Two fingers to clueless politicians who believe contact tracing a smart idea in context of Covid-19.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hm.

          As QR code expert, you'll no doubt be familiar with this:

          https://wtfqrcodes.tumblr.com/

          1. Gonzo wizard Bronze badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Hm.

            I wasn't, but I'm very familiar with the EICAR test QR Code. Not being totally evil I've stuck one to the underside of my laptop. Anybody deciding to scan it has too much curiosity.

            I wouldn't put it past a few jokers to run a few EICAR stickers off and deploy them around their local pubs for the LOLs.

        2. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Hm.

          "Two fingers to clueless politicians who believe contact tracing a smart idea in context of Covid-19."

          Whilst I generally agree with your description of politicians... the concept of track and trace does have use - particularly in the case of a virus with quite such a long incubation period before symptoms (if any, for some people) show up.

          Of course the very idea that this could be accomplished by any government led IT department is laughable. I'm sure that a simple track and trace using the google/apple APIs could have been made pretty easily.

          The interesting thing is that it doesn't require 100% coverage of the population to be useful. If just 50% of people use it each person who is contagious has a 50% chance of telling 50% of the people around them that they have been in contact. If that reduces onward transmission by just 50% for those 50% then you still get a better than 10% drop in R overall, that's pretty significant when you are looking at R values within 10-20% of 1.

          Of course both of those 50% number are plucked from thin air...

        3. theOtherJT

          Re: Hm.

          Or you could stop being precious and just co-operate, but then I suppose you wouldn't get that warm glow of feeling like you know best.

    2. Long John Silver
      Pirate

      Re: Hm.

      I have instructed an adult son living at home to give false credentials when asked in restaurants and pubs. The idea of some busybody calling round and telling us all to isolate for some period of time appals me. If we were still living in an era when smallpox was a hazard I would obey: not so for Covid-19. An upfront lie saves later aggravation should officialdom seek to verify compliance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hm.

        And this is exactly the behaviour that helped spread the virus in several occasions. Thanks. I guess you have noone you know about who did end up being hospitalised.

      2. The Dogs Meevonks
        FAIL

        Re: Hm.

        Congratulations on being no better than an accessory to murder if you get infected and pass it on to some one who later dies.

        You are a real POS... and yet, I still hope you don;t have to suffer from this, have to suffer as others have and I hope that you don't actually cause the death of anyone... let alone a person you actually care about... not that any one as stupid and selfish as you cares about anything or anyone other than themselves.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Absolutely NO lies necessary!!!!

        @Long_John_Silver

        No need for a false name....when NO NAME AT ALL is possible:

        1. From the convenience store: pay-as-you go SIM plus minutes bought for cash

        2. Bluetooth switched off on the smartphone

        3. Scan QR code

        4. Run smartphone app

        5. Result: anonymous "burner" phone and no bluetooth tracking

        Warnings:

        A: Make sure your real phone and your burner are never on at the same time

        B: Pay with cash (no debit or credit cards)

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: Absolutely NO lies necessary!!!!

          All well and good but try finding places that will take cash these days....

          Go on I dare you.

          As much as I prefer to use cash the majority of the £200 quid I drew out of the hole in the wall last May is still there today.

          CV-19 could well come to be known as the event that killed cash (as well as millions of people)

          1. RuffianXion

            Re: Absolutely NO lies necessary!!!!

            My local takes ONLY cash, no card payments whatsoever. Anyone new to the establishment who brandishes a card for payment of their round is directed to the nearby convenience store's cash machine.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Absolutely NO lies necessary!!!!

              My local Chinese takeaway only takes cash over the counter.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Absolutely NO lies necessary!!!!

            @Steve_Davis_3

            Link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-12/sweden-s-cashless-future-reveals-a-whole-world-of-hidden-risks

            *

            You might like to read this recent piece in Bloomberg. "Unintended Consequences"...and all that!

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Absolutely NO lies necessary!!!!

            "All well and good but try finding places that will take cash these days...."

            No problem. Everywhere I've been since lockdown started is still taking cash. They prefer card use, and I do tend to use my card most of the time, but using cash is NOT an issue.

          4. TomPhan

            Re: Absolutely NO lies necessary!!!!

            That's all the cannabis shops are allowed to take.

      4. FatGerman

        Re: Hm.

        You sir, are a massive twat.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hm.

          Maybe he could just claim to have "anxiety" or "PTSD", both of which seem to offer permission to infect and kill.

      5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Hm.

        "If we were still living in an era when smallpox was a hazard I would obey"

        We are living in an era where a coronavirus is a hazard. Of the two it seems likely that it's the virus which is the greater hazard.

    3. RuffianXion

      Re: Hm.

      No smartphone? Heretic! (I'll have two points, two flats and a packet of gravel.)

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  4. AndyFl

    Paper is best

    Paper based contact tracing is by far the best as it maintains anonymity as much as possible in that the details are only looked at and transcribed into a database if there is an outbreak in the venue. If nothing happens then they can be destroyed after a few weeks. It isn't a big job to transcribe a few handfuls of paper records if there is an incident.

    A centralised system which captures user details directly into a database is open to abuse by lots of organisations at the click of a button or a demand under the 2000 RIP act or it's later amendments. Just how much do you trust the local authority or various "law enforcement" bodies not to abuse private data. There is also not an insignificant chance of the entire database leaking into the public domain with names, addresses and phone numbers!

    Then there are issues about the apps themselves, their security, liability for data loss then phone data connectivity and the vague hope/expectation that everyone actually has a phone with a compatible version of OS and a functioning battery!

    Lets just keep things simple please.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Paper is best

      "Paper based contact tracing is by far the best as it maintains anonymity as much as possible"

      Interestingly, I went into a council building the other day. They had a sign-in sheet requesting name, full postcode and phone number at the main reception. Considering the strict and often overzealous application of GDPR by local councils, the sheet was not covered in any way, the data not protected from prying eyes, ie the people being asked to sign in. A full set of personal details on view to everyone.

      1. jwatkins

        Re: Paper is best

        Slightly more information than the electoral register?

  5. ibmalone Silver badge

    So... a poster. One swedish coffee shop I know has had their own qr code on a poster for at least a month. But I suppose they're trying.

    (Said bakery also finds that customers may not know how to scan a qr code, not all android phones do it in the same way for example.)

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      There are plenty over here as well.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      (Said bakery also finds that customers may not know how to scan a qr code, not all android phones do it in the same way for example.)

      The last 'smart' phone I got didn't have any QR code reader installed on it. So I thought briefly about donating personal information to it's app store, finding and installing a reader.. But figured I CBA, and have yet to find I've missed out on anything.

      1. ibmalone Silver badge

        Here's an Apache 2 licensed app for android https://github.com/zxing/zxing scans barcodes and qr codes (interesting if you want to find out what that boarding pass says for example). I seem to remember seeing at one point that various other apps actually used the scanning code from this, not sure if that's still true. Various manufacturers include qr recognition in their camera app, but not all and varies by model, similarly if you want to enable google lens it will do it, but I tend to turn all the assistant-based stuff off too.

  6. Simon Ward

    I'll give it ....

    .... 24hrs before someone discovers a juggernaut-sized security hole or twelve in it.

    Or am I being too optimistic?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'll give it ....

      ".... 24hrs before someone discovers a juggernaut-sized security hole or twelve in it."

      Soon, it will be illegal for researchers looking at the source code for security holes:

      https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2020/09/04/voatz_supreme_court/

      1. ClockworkOwl
        Devil

        Re: I'll give it ....

        That only means we'll find out when all our phones transfer all our money to an untraceable account in Panama using the covid app to pwn the banking app...

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    And exactly what does the app do with the QR code once it's read it?

    Most reports are a bit light in detail/ According to the only privacy statement (for the trial, not the launch) I could find it's supposed to store the locations on the phone so I have a list to tell me where I've been. Somehow I think I might have worked out where I've been for myself. What use am I going to make of that? Does the app phone home to find a list of premises to which an outbreak has been traced? If so, at what point is the privacy statement quietly changed so the app can upload the list so the list can be checked centrally - so much more efficient?

    Wouldn't it be nice to have someone in charge who had an impeccable a track-record of trustworthiness in sageguarding PII?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Somehow I think I might have worked out where I've been for myself."

      That's probably true for some people, maybe for a lot of people, but I can't say for sure exactly which shops I was in last week. There's the "usual suspects" I go to every week, but did I go in the local butchers, bakers or candlestick makers? Or the fruit shop last week? Might have. Maybe not.

  8. Peter Prof Fox

    Thank goodness

    At last! I was feeling a bit wheezy but went to the pub anyway. SAVED by a QR code. It's so simple I wonder why nobody thought of it earlier.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Sounds more like a gimmick.

    Will supermarkets also be having a QR code at the entrance? Would they expect all of the 150 people inside Tesco Extra at the same time as a virus carrier to all isolate?

    I can only see this epidemic getting much worse again based upon (mainly young) people's behaviour as I experience it. Happened to be in a Lidl store the other day with the wife (both of us are in the high risk category) just at the time the kids in the primary school came out across the road. Terrible timing. Within minutes we were surrounded by young mothers, most were not wearing a mask or observing social distancing, with kids running up and down the isles running into people or blocking the isles. Nobody stopped the parents or queried why they weren't wearing masks. We couldn't get out of there fast enough. In other shops we came across people wearing their mask below their nose or even under their chin. A while later we had to squeeze through a crowd of socialising school boys blocking the entrance to the car park. We rarely go out as it is, but it looks like we're going to have to self-shield again and have food delivered again, just due to people's lack of consideration for others.

    Technology isn't going to solve the problem of what has been termed "covidiots".

    1. Emir Al Weeq

      Re: Sounds more like a gimmick.

      >Will supermarkets also be having a QR code at the entrance?

      And if they do, will anyone bother to scan it? The last time I was in a supermarket nobody was using the free hand sanitiser at the entrance. I stood well back and watched whilst rubbing it into my hands. Some 15-20 people walked past and only one other person used it.

      On leaving, the few people ahead of me ignored the sanitiser at the exit too.

      Scanning a code takes longer than waving your hand under a dispenser and has uncertain benefit: no one will do it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds more like a gimmick.

        Yeah.. I can't see that people will use these QR codes. I've also watched as people completely ignore hand sanitization stations.

        But I won't be using the QR codes either, but that's more because I've always strongly valued my privacy. I always do as much as I can to protect my privacy.

        Granted, in this world that now makes me an enemy. But it doesn't make me dangerous because:

        1) I do not go out very often (maybe once per month, I don't even go in the garden anymore), I don't go to pubs or other social gatherings anymore (I banned myself from these) - and based on all those places now requiring names and addresses.. probably never will again.

        2) I wear a motorcycle helmet with visor down and mask under it. although this also appears to annoy some shop security guards "You must remove your helmet so I can see your face!" (Because the visor isn't clear) - I've been asked to leave a few times for refusing to do this. But, do remember, you can catch COVID via your eyes, a mask won't necessarily protect you..

        3) I wear gloves whenever I'm out, and carry my own portable hand-sanitizer.

        4) I live alone.

        5) I don't meet up with people (or invite them to my home)

        But I will absolutely not under any circumstances install that app, or allow myself to be traced using names wherever I go. I value my privacy.

        But this makes me irresponsible in most peoples eyes.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Sounds more like a gimmick.

        "On leaving, the few people ahead of me ignored the sanitiser at the exit too."

        FWIW, I don't either. I use my own before I go in, same on the way out and always use anti-bacterial wipes on the trolley handle and to use the coin slot key thing. I also have a second anti-bacterial wipe for opening fridge or freezer doors etc, keep wiping my hands after touching stuff. I've seen others do the same.

        Having said all that, I know what you mean. There are people who are still not taking things seriously. I followed a guy in a motorway services the other day. No mask for him or his wife. He also walked back out of the toilets after pissing and didn't wash his hands either. Twat!

  10. ivan5

    Cases

    When they use the term 'cases' do they mean actual proved case with real symptoms or do they mean test results which may be false? There is a big difference between the two with the latter rising as more tests are done.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Basket Cases

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-54116939

      Since lockdown, we have been deciding how to react to falling cases. But now the R number has gone above the crucial level of 1 for the first time since March and is backed up by reams of data showing cases are growing again.

      Ohnoes! Panic! Slap QR codes on people's foreheads! Tattoo QR codes on the unclean! One up Melbourne and implement curfews! Anyone out after 10pm will be shot! And fined!

      Or bemoan the scientific illiteracy that's lead the BBC and its ilk to redefine terms like 'cases' to mean 'positive test results'. And then spread panic. As you say, the 'news' is unsuprising, and not necessarily bad. Test more people, yet more positive results. An ideal antibody test I guess would show close to 100% 'cases', ie everyone's been infected and developed antibodies, and the herd is now immune. Give or take any Covid mutations. Now, I wonder if people who've died from non-Covid causes due to hospitals being empty will get counted as Covid deaths. Or will those stats be quietly ignored, like care home deaths.

      Oh, and there's that genius idea of testing people every day. Nice work if you're in the business of flogging test kits I guess.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Basket Cases

        OTOH the genuine statisticians are agreed that R is now greater than 1 and that infections (is that sufficiently unambiguous for you?) are doubling about once a week.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Basket Cases

        "An ideal antibody test I guess would show close to 100% 'cases', ie everyone's been infected and developed antibodies, and the herd is now immune."

        It ill-becomes you to accuse the BBC of scientific illiteracy. I'm not entirely sure how to read your statement.

        On the one hand it might be interpreted that you believe everyone has already been infected - and if you really do mean that then where's your evidence?

        On the other, perhaps you mean an ideal situation would be one in which everyone had had the virus. This ideal requires closer examination. Firstly that would mean that a very large number would have suffered a very bad experience at the worst end of the symptom spectrum. Secondly very many would have died; a greater proportion than actually died because the health service would have been overwhelmed. Thirdly in some cases there seems to be long term damage to at least some survivors so in your ideal situation a large number of people would be experiencing that. Fourthly we don't yet know how effective the immunity is.

        My ideal would be a vaccine that's at least good enough to need no more than an annual top-up until such time as the virus can be eliminated like smallpox was, an absence of ant-vaxers to make elimination possible and real grown-ups in charge in Whitehall and Westminster. I have hopes that the first part might be possible but am exceedingly dubious about the other two.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Basket Cases

          @Doctor Syntax

          The "test" is a tick box exercise to "prove" the government kept its word on rolling it out.

          That it is unable to detect asymptomatic cases means it is not a real test.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Basket Cases

            That it is unable to detect asymptomatic cases means it is not a real test.

            If it's testing for the virus directly, or antibodies, then it's a real test. Might still have false positives & negatives, but real none the less. And also somewhat pointless if testing is voluntary, ie the people who go to get tests may be the more hypochondrically inclined, whilst the asymptomatic carriers won't get tested because they feel fine..

            We live in interesting times. Especially for groundskeepers who painted circles in publc parks so groups of <6 from <=2 familiy groups can self-isolate on pain of large fines. Or just experience what it is to be a cat..

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Basket Cases

              Grant Shapps recently stated the reason the "test" wasn't used at airports for incoming passengers was that it couldn't detect asymptomatic cases. In other words, even if it was mandatory for the very people you highlight as being the most dangerous, IT WOULDN'T WORK. That is not a real test.

              A relevant analogy is the Covid "vaccine" itself. Apparently there are 150 currently in development. However, they don't currently know whether some of them will actually cause more harm than good, according to a very informative BBC Inside Science episode available on Iplayer. How is that possible you say? Well some of them protect the recipient from symptoms but don't stop the production of transmissible virus - thereby turning every recipient into an asymptomatic case! I.e. they aren't vaccines any more than the "test" is real.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: Basket Cases

                Grant Shapps recently stated the reason the "test" wasn't used at airports for incoming passengers was that it couldn't detect asymptomatic cases. In other words, even if it was mandatory for the very people you highlight as being the most dangerous, IT WOULDN'T WORK. That is not a real test.

                I respectfully disagree. The test(s) is/are real, ie they produce a result with varying degrees of confidence. Problem is they're only a snapshot, and there's a delay between test & result. So problem is one of practicality. Screen all incoming passengers, then send them off to holding camps pending results. If negative, release, if positive, transfer to quarantine camps. But the test was on landing, and visitors may have picked up Covid in the camps..

                Then there's interpreting results, so a test can detect antibodies. Yey, a new case. But that can mean the person has been infected, but not currently infectious. But if it's possible to be re-infected, then the results are potentially meaningless. Hence why there have been calls to test every day, which will be rather expensive and still has the problem of lag between test and result.

                Then I think there have been issues with testing regimes. I think Iceland made the decision to test everyone, so had a snapshot of their population. But they have a small population. Other nations have been prioritising testing 'key workers', and volunteers who may have symptoms.. And that volunteer part seems to have been problematic with people being asked to visit testing centres miles away, or not having QR codes.. Which may be a symptom of technofetishism. I carry a medical alert card with my NHS number on it, which would seem fine for linking a test to.. As other routine tests I have are.

                As for vaccines, there's an interesting comment here-

                https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31867-5/fulltext

                And I think issues between reporting and reality. For me, most notable is trials have either been small, or focused on healthy patients. And for the politics, the Oxford phase 1/2 trial had mostly young, white volunteers. So if BAME people are more vulnerable, why? And how they'll respond to any vaccine.. Along with the obese, diabetics, patients with existing immune system deficiencies etc. So we don't yet seem to know if candidate vaccines will protect the most vulnerable & the population we'd most want to protect.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Basket Cases

                  "The test(s) is/are real, ie they produce a result with varying degrees of confidence."

                  Not sure if you actually believe that or just haven't thought it through.

                  Cue car analogy: if a garage used that line of defence for letting unsafe cars back on the road after "passing" the MOT, the authorities would take a pretty dim view, ie it wouldn't be a real test. If a relative of yours was killed by such a car, you would not be quite as tolerant of the garage's negligence.

        2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Basket Cases

          It ill-becomes you to accuse the BBC of scientific illiteracy. I'm not entirely sure how to read your statement.

          It's simple really. The BBC doesn't have any scientists on staff (AFAIK) and it's been churning out junk science in the guise of 'climate science' for many years now. Latest probably being California's 'record' heat that isn't.

          On the other, perhaps you mean an ideal situation would be one in which everyone had had the virus.

          Yup, so the population has developed herd immunity..

          Firstly that would mean that a very large number would have suffered a very bad experience at the worst end of the symptom spectrum.

          Yep. Such is public health. A very large number of people have had a very bad experience with job losses, restricted liberties.. So it's finding the balance. Is the cure worse than the disease? But a very large number of people may have experienced no symptoms, or very mild symptoms. There's been some stuff recently looking at exactly when the outbreak started, which may have been sooner than previously thought and symptoms just being regarded as flu. But over time, there's been a better picture as to who's most vulnerable, and who's least. So the young less vulnerable, over 80s a lot more vulnerable.

          Secondly very many would have died; a greater proportion than actually died because the health service would have been overwhelmed.

          Kind of. To date, the NHS seems to have been somewhat underwhelmed. Lots of patients sent back to care homes to infect people there (the elderly being particularly vulnerable), and lots of in/outpatient appointments cancelled. So a number of patients will have died as a result of those lockdown measures. That's one of those things statisticians are looking at, ie any deaths directly attributable to Covid, indirectly as a result of policies and I guess deviation from expected mortality.

          Thirdly in some cases there seems to be long term damage to at least some survivors so in your ideal situation a large number of people would be experiencing that.

          Perhaps. From papers I've been reading, this may be (sort of) normal. So virus infects, leads to viral pneumonia, and then potentially organ failure. The further that progresses, the more likely it'll create long-term damage.. Something it seems to share with other lung infections, ie the worse it gets, the more likely it'll create scarring inside the lungs. There seems to be less certainty that there's anything specific to Covid.

          Fourthly we don't yet know how effective the immunity is.

          True, and there have been reports of people reinfected. So for some at least, there's little, or short-term immunity.. Which also links into how effective vaccinations might be.

          My ideal would be a vaccine that's at least good enough to need no more than an annual top-up until such time as the virus can be eliminated like smallpox was

          Yup.. Although of course there are real risks with vaccines, especially if they're being rushed into production. A polio vaccine's been in the news recently for spreading polio. Then again, it'll soon be time for the winter flu shot. Tried and tested, millions of doses administered, and assuming we've picked the right strains for the upcoming season, rather effective. But there's far less certainty with current Covid candidates, other than some (the balm of Gilead) having little effect on anything other than Gilead's share price. But like flu, Covid's able to mutate, so like flu, it may need an annual shot to work against circulating strains. Which is also why I think it's unlikely that it'll be eradicated like smallpox.. Unless a vaccine does some general immunisation, but that's a whole lot riskier than one that just stimulates antibodies to a specific virus.

          And there may be alternatives, ie some cheap medication, or combination of medications that can prevent symptoms progressing. Don't develop pneumonia, don't risk lung scarring.. Which is kinda back to early claims for stuff like quinine + zinc. I'm still not sure what the consensus is on that one.

          But back to R0 and the BBC.. Experts have assumed it's been >1 since the outbreak started, so 'news' that it's over 1 isn't.. news. After all it's one of the variables that kick-started policy via dire predictions and models that have since been falsified by empirical evidence. But that evidence gets fed back into models, and R0 isn't the whole number, especially as outbreaks progress. So there's also the effective reproduction rate, or Rt, where t=point in time and the reproduction rate is against the susceptible population. So over time, Rt reduces, because people are no longer (or never were) susceptible through natural immunity or acquired immunity.. Or in the worst case, are dead. Herd immunity again.

          But that's also one of the risks with policy, ie Rt <1 gets pushed back in time by ham-fisted control measures, so herd immunity doesn't develop, and as long as the virus is 'out there', the process has to start all over again.

          And then there's the misuse of 'cases' rather than detections, and the BBC getting all excited that as more people are tested, more 'cases' are found. But hey ho, such is the latest incarnation of Project Fear.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Basket Cases

        "Test more people, yet more positive results. "

        While both true and a Trumpism, the rate of positive tests is also increasing, irrespective of the numbers of tests being carried out. That's typical of people who are in denial and how Trump operates constantly. Carefully picking just enough "truth" to make statements sound plausible that are demonstrably wrong.

        As for your accusation of the conflation of "cases" and "positive results", anyone not a denier, especially in the medical profession, will tell you that the number of cases is highly likely to be one or more orders of magnitude more than current testing would indicate. I'm sure even you must have heard of asymptomatic infections, let alone those who get it relatively mildly, most of whom probably don't get tested. Certainly the vast majority of asymptomatic case don't get tested unless they are in a job where regular testing is required.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Elsewhere in El Reg.....news about Bluetooth....

    https://www.theregister.com/2020/09/11/blurtooth_vulnerability/

    *

    So....."test-and-trace" also has Bluetooth defects BUILT IN TO MILLIONS OF DEVICES!

    *

    How is that going to work out then?

  12. Ian Mason

    Since when was 'newspeak' used for official announcements?

    What gets my goat is the blatancy with which they claim that keeping a list of where you have been is "privacy preserving". It's one thing to keep a pseudonymous list of who you have been in contact with a la Apple/Google, there are ways to do that in a privacy preserving manner. It's very hard to see how a scheme that by definition must cross-correlate where MANY people have been BY LOCATION can be constructed in a way that will be privacy preserving. To claim it's privacy preserving is, almost without a doubt, a lie. It doesn't exactly reassure me of the safety and security of their scheme, it does however convince me that I can't trust them by running this app on my phone.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Since when was 'newspeak' used for official announcements?

      Ever since the fictional novel 1984 became a popular textbook on "State Manipulation of the Population"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Since when was 'newspeak' used for official announcements?

      'it does however convince me that I can't trust them by running this app on my phone.'

      So it took this particular fib to convince you this duplicitous shower of shit can't be trusted? Remarkable.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Since when was 'newspeak' used for official announcements?

      What gets my goat is the blatancy with which they claim that keeping a list of where you have been is "privacy preserving".

      Until we see it and get a chance to see how it works, the only "facts" we have at the moment are that the app stores the data on the phone and then checks for alerts from a central database. Your phone then lets you know if any of the places you've been are in that list. It doesn't send your data anywhere. Considering the outcry over privacy (rightly, IMHO), I can't see any reason why the QR code thing should work in the same way.

      So, instead of "Oh Noes! Privacy", let's wait for the evidence which may or may not prove your fears.

    4. Vasten_the_Barelegged

      Re: Since when was 'newspeak' used for official announcements?

      Who can doubt that it is indeed "privacy preserving" "in a limited and specific way"

  13. Natalie Gritpants Jr

    Loving the Yo Sushi QR codes!

    Point camera at QR on table and your browser goes to the menu where you order and pay. Then the food turns up. The old way was a bit more fun for the adventurous but I can't see it going back to that.

  14. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    Compulsion

    Need to make checking in a requirement everywhere to make this useful.

    People who don't want to be tracked can just not go to the pub and walk rather than catch a bus.

    Should be the people with the QR codes though, a little card wouldn't cost much.

  15. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Pint

    Pity

    the idiots in charge dont think this through better

    Example 1 :my smartphone does not have a QR reader installed (minor point)

    Example 2 : Attending the covd test center, they asked for the QR code sent to me..... the text message sent to my phone did not have a QR code in it.

    30 mins after getting home, an email arrived bearing the QR code...

    I'm beginning to think that the practical test during the interview for a senior government position consists of a large brewery , and a party of 100 people.... if , after 6 hrs none of the party are drunk and none of the beer has been consumed, then the candidate is ideal material for a government position..

    Beer because as Nanny Ogg remarked "Alcohol cures many things."

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Pity

      "I'm beginning to think that the practical test during the interview for a senior government position"

      I think you're over-estimating the rigour of the appointment process. Not in supposing the existence of a practical test but in supposing the existence of an interview.

      The appointment procedure was probably no more than:

      "She's married to one of us."

      "We gave her a seat in the HoL"*

      "She ran an internet business so she must know about these things."

      The fact that the internet business was persistently at or near the bottom of the heap on measures other than cheapness and not safeguarding its customers' PII obviously wasn't taken into consideration.

      It's showing up in aspects such as the allocation of testing appointments seems to be based on a very old, cheapest and misleading satnav.

      * NB I don't think being in the HoL per se should be a contra-indication. On the contrary, I think the HoL should be strengthened by an ex officio process for appointing people from the top of appropriate professions - science, engineering & medicine - to it so that Parliament gains rather more people who know what they're talking about and would be available for positions of public responsibility.

    2. Tom Sparrow

      Re: Pity

      The QR code reader is part of the NHS app (though I'm guessing you're more on the 'won't be getting that' side of the fence). The QR code itself is a location specific code the app will (presumably) register as somewhere you've visited, not a URL or other link.

  16. Libertarian Voice

    I am just not prepared to do that.

    I can see from the number of... Well as you like to call us capable of independent throught "Coviditots" it is only right to reciprocate so I will go with sanctimonious c-ov-unts, that my opinion will not exactly be popular, but if you think I am going to allow myself to be used as a data collection node for the state then you have another think coming.

    As those capable of independent thought have already pointed out, there are ways to circumvent this authoritarian nonsense and I shall utilise every single one of them.

    PS. If that involves me not spending my hard earned cash in your establishment then that is YOUR loss, not mine.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: I am just not prepared to do that.

      In that case.... just stay at home alway from the rest of us and order your food/drink to be delivered.

  17. mark l 2 Silver badge

    When I went out a few weeks ago there was one bar that had the doorman stopping people coming in until you scanned the QR code with your phone and actually showed them the screen to prove you had done it. While at another pub just a few minutes down the road I couldn't even see any details for their track and trace, just a few signs up telling people to stay 2 meters apart, and virtually no one was.

    I hope the NHS app has a QR code scanner built into it, as unlike iOS not all Android phones can scan them without a 3rd party app. And there needs to be a backup paper system for those who don't have a smart phone or are out of data on their phone etc.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "or are out of data on their phone"

      AFAIK the mode of operation being claimed is that it simply stores the scanned codes on the phone so being out of data wouldn't make a difference. Where things go from there is a bit less clear.

    2. I am the liquor Bronze badge

      What happens when you scan the QR code? Presumably the phone's browser does a GET request to the URL in the code, and then...? Or do you have to scan the code with a specific app?

      I'm talking about these existing QR systems that are already in use, as described by mark l 2, not the future NHS contact tracing system.

  18. daftdave

    Who'sidea to use Bluetooth

    I have enough problems connecting to wireless speakers, never mind a country wide decentralized network of other phones.

    I am highly skeptical that there is a strong enough correlation between who you've been in Bluetooth proximity with and who you've been in infectious proximity with. For example, as a delivery driver I frequently come close to peoples front doors (that they may be stood behind, with their phones in their pockets) but am always stood well back when the door is answered. Yet I could get infected from a pedestrian crossing button hours after the person who left the infection there had left the vicinity.

    Finally, my phone manufacturer hasn't pushed out any updates so I don't even have the Gapple API.

    Is there any evidence from other countries, (which are ahead of us) that any of this is having any benefit.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Who'sidea to use Bluetooth

      "Within 2m for more than 15 mins" has been the "rule" since lockdown. It constantly surprises me how many people still have not understood that basic message. The app should not be warning you of people you might have been near for 60 seconds or so. If you are pressing pedestrian crossing buttons after 100's of strangers, then you need to consider your risk level and mitigations. Like maybe wearing gloves or carrying wet anti-bacterial wipes. Same applies to anything that others may be touching before you.

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Yet I could get infected from a pedestrian crossing button

      Could just carry and use some handgel. Use it after you touch something. Won't take long to become habit.

      Bluetooth proximity is simply the most convenient option available to approximate mass contact tracing. It's probably the one thing most people have on them that can talk with other things.

      Is it perfect? Of course not.

      Will it work for everyone? Of course not.

      Is it super accurate? Again, of course not.

      But it's probably good enough to cover 70-80% of a population. Get an alert, get tested, isolate until you get the test result. Testing of course is where it all falls apart, because here in the UK it seems nigh impossible to book a test now (trying all day to book one for my 10 year old son - absolutely nothing available).

  19. Scott 26

    Kiwiland

    We've had something similar for a while (covid app with QR codes at businesses. Scan code, adds an entry to your diary stored locally).

    During Lockdown Season 2, it became compulsory for businesses to display a code (our health ministry website has a tool for generating the code, which you can then print off). Some businesses took it a step further - display a code and a manual sign in sheet: Please do one or other or GTFO.

    As for supermarkets and other areas with lots of patrons: displaying multiple codes helps. Also, as a nation, generally we have gotten pretty good at scanning: as you approach, you get your phone out, launch the app, start pointing it at the sign. I'm had it register from about 2-3m away.

  20. Wayneh_nz

    Here in New Zealand, our QR code contact tracing app, provided by the government does a couple of things differently, the data is stored on your device, the QR Code is registered to the physical location, the app sends the business name and user name to the contact tracing provider, once there has been a notification that the contact tracing needs to contact some one that has been to that location, they then get the app to notify the contact tracing of the day and time that a particular user has been, if it does not correspond with the timeline requested, the data is purged, and the people that match get a phone call, and told to take a test and isolate.

    All public transport has a card, (like an oystercard in the UK) and all vehicles have a unique code, so we can trace individual travel,

    and like Scott26 above, we have gotten good enough, that I have seen someone scanned someones else's phone, while they were scanning the code at the door.

  21. tiggity Silver badge

    QR code can fuck off

    Too easy to hijack - print your own malicious QR code (e.g. to a site with adult content) & stick it over the legit QR code. More maliciously coudl send you to a website full of phone attacks to try and pown your phone.

    Not a fan of QR codes as could take you to any website, you have no way of knowing, which is inherently risky.

    Happily for me, I visit proper, independent pubs, where cash is king (my COVID precautions are taking lots of change so I can pay for drinks in exact coinage so no risk of handling contaminated received change - as a bonus, most pubs with beer gardens no need to enter, they send someone out to get your order). Not been in a pub with app use, but then I don't do spoons or other chains.

    .. and obviously, the big security hole that is Bluetooth is disabled on my phone

  22. JohnBuckle

    Here in Singapore

    Singapore has had QR codes and temperature scans on every shop front, cafe, bar etc. for six months. People in Singapore seem to respect the idea of keeping the community safe, unlike what I read above about people wanting to game the system. This is a great shame. My daughter was assaulted in Sydney this morning simply for wearing a mask. I guess from reading the above comments this would happen in London too.

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