The British vaccination certificate app generates broken QR codes on popular Android phones


Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central

What you need to know

  • A bug in the NHS app’s Covid Pass causes truncated, unscannable QR codes to appear on some popular Android phones.
  • The bug could cause problems for some UK travelers using the app to prove vaccination status.
  • Workarounds include printing a PDF version or changing the display size setting on the phone to something other than the default.

As the UK relaxes its remaining coronavirus restrictions, many travelers vaccinated in the country rely on the NHS app to view their Covid-19 status for international travel. However, a bug in the Android version of the app, discovered by Android headquartersShe could get some Brits to prove their vaccination status at the border even if they had both doses.

On some Android phones, the app cuts off the far right part of the generated QR code, making the code illegible. Phones affected by the bug in the current version of the app – v1.48.7 – include some of the most popular current models such as the Samsung Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Ultra, Galaxy A72, OnePlus 8T, OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro. Other models tested by AC, including Google Pixel 5, Pixel 4a 5G, ASUS Zenfone 8, Oppo Find X2 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, were not affected by the glitch and correctly displayed the full QR code.

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The bug only affects Covid Pass QR codes generated for travel as opposed to those used for UK domestic events.

Since the app is essentially just a wrapper for the NHS mobile website, the bug is also present on the affected devices we tested in the Covid Pass section of this website. This means that users who attempt to obtain a Covid Pass by logging into an affected phone using their mobile browser will also see a clipped, unscannable QR code.

NHS app Covid Pass QR codeSource: Android Central Left: Correct QR code on Google Pixel 5
Right: Truncated, illegible QR code on the Galaxy S21 Ultra

Travelers could get a headache at the border if their code isn’t scanned.

The Covid Pass feature of the NHS app is considered the most convenient way for English residents to prove that they are fully vaccinated when traveling abroad. Currently, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Croatia recognize the NHS Covid Pass as proof of vaccination, and some of them have much stricter rules on unvaccinated arrivals. Without a reliable way of proving their Covid status, travelers could be turned away at international borders, turned away by airlines at check-in or subjected to a lengthy quarantine on arrival.

While the NHS app can also generate a PDF version of the Covid Pass – which also contains a working QR code on devices affected by the error – it is unclear whether this would be accepted if this was on the screen instead of in the form of a printout would appear -out, especially outside the UK. The NHS can also send a printed version of the Covid Pass, but this can take up to five working days.

On a technical level, the bug seems to be a pretty straightforward UI bug. It appears to be caused by an incompatibility between the HTML layout used to display the QR code and the default “Display Size” (also called “Screen Zoom”) on certain Samsung and OnePlus phones. If you change this setting to a larger or smaller value, the QR code will display properly on the affected models we tested – with the obvious side effect that this is everything otherwise appear larger or smaller on the phone, which is less than ideal.

Regardless, to the average traveler suddenly faced with a non-working QR code upon arrival at the airport, these types of workarounds are far from obvious. And while this bug should be easy to fix, it also reveals the teething tech that is likely to persist as trips to Covid open up.

Android headquarters contacted the NHS digital media team and was referred to the Department of Health and Social Affairs press office, which did not respond to a request for comment on the story.


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