Coronavirus: Mobile Users To Receive Government Alert

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Unprecedented move sees all operators in UK sending out government message with Coronavirus shutdown details to mobile customers

Mobile operators in the United Kingdom will reportedly send out a government message to all customers, with details about the Coronavirus shutdown.

On Monday 22 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson implemented an unprecedented lock-down in the UK, with people only allowed to leave their house for ‘essential shopping’ such as food and medicine, or to check on the elderly. All non-essential shops including clothing stores, libraries and electronic shops have been ordered to close.

The mobile alert comes amid reports that the Government is talking with mobile operators about obtaining mobile location data, to see if citizens are obeying social isolation.

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Government message

That came it was reported last week that certain European operators were sharing anonoymous location data that showed whether people are complying with local curbs on movement, while at the same time respecting Europe’s strict privacy laws.

But now the government is to reinforce the instructions from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a message to everyone’s mobile phones.

GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT,” the BBC reported the message as reading. “New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info and exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”

The BBC said that some customers have already received the message. The author of this article has not yet received the message, but it is expected to arrive on most people’s phones later in the day.

Mobile operator O2 for example told the BBC it was sending the texts in batches adding it could take until 22:00GMT to complete the task.

Mobile alerts

It should be remembered that back in 2013 the government announced plans to test mobile alerts for emergency situations, in partnership with O2, Vodafone and EE.

Trials took place in Glasgow, Suffolk and Yorkshire, but the system was never put into practice.

That trial seven years ago involved two different kinds of alerts, the first being a cell broadcast service, which sent out text-type messages to all handsets in a defined area.

The second alert was a SMS message sent to affected citizens.

The decision not to implement this system means that the government now has to ask the operators to send the message for them.

In a post Coronavirus (Covid-19) world, it seems highly likely the government will insist it has the ability to sent messages to mobile users directly, without having to involve local operators.

This type of system is already in use in countries such as South Korea and the Netherlands.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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