I was out on Wednesday night. Out out. At an awards thing. A proper function in a posh hotel with proper functioning adults. It was weird. Thank the gods of good timing it was a day and a half before the new Covid vaccine passport app came in though.
Because I’d probably still be in my room, rocking and silently weeping, if I’d needed to jump through those hoops.
Safe to say if they’re dishing out awards for the worst app launch next year, the Scottish Government is in with a great shout.
I’m writing this on Friday, mid morning, and NHS Scotland is trending on Twitter.
Just not in a good way.
The Covid vaccine passport scheme for entry to nightclubs and large events came into force at 5am.
The app itself only went live on the App store at teatime on Thursday and already social media is awash with people complaining they can’t get on to it to register their details.
Frankly I’m amazed they’ve even found it.
Type “NHS Scotland covid vaccine passport” into the Google store and the first thing that comes up is the Protect Scotland app.
That’s the one that pings you if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid. The one that never pings.
Yeah that’s not it.
Dear @JohnSwinney, you cannot find the Scottish covid status app by searching the play store. Searching "nhs Scotland covid status" produces no relevant results.
You can find it via Google with same search terms where it gets 1.1/5 rating.
England app has 4.4/5.
— Derek Timothy (@Derek_Timothy) September 30, 2021
There’s a separate Scotland Covid vaccine passport app.
It’s just nowhere to be seen.
Keep scrolling down, through the ones for Northern Ireland, Jersey and Gibraltar.
Scroll on past the NHS Couch to 5K app and the Royal Mail app for tracking and redeliveries.
Scroll till your thumb is the size of Desperate Dan’s and you can scroll no more.
You won’t find it.
Where to find Covid vaccine passport app
One colleague found the search term by working back from the links supplied to us in a press release.
It’s “NHS National Services Scotland”. Even then it’s the fourth option down.
Another got to “Scot NHS” by a similar process of elimination. It’s the fifth down when you search that way.
Which is great if you’re a reporter at The Courier whose job it is to find out stuff that the authorities would often rather keep hidden.
But if I was an ordinary punter trying to perform my civic duty I’d be feeling pretty frustrated by the whole process.
📱 The NHS Scotland Covid Status app is now available to download.
The app will be needed to enter some events and venues from Friday 1 October, and for overseas travel.
It displays proof of your #coronavirus vaccination status. ✅
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) September 30, 2021
By lunchtime our health reporters had devised a simple step by side guide for readers to follow.
It’s great. It’s here.
But it kind of feels like something the Scottish Government should have done before now for all those normal people who don’t spend their lives on social media.
The app itself had a 1.2 star rating last time I checked.
That’s the kind of numbers you usually see on the ad-filled games from shonky developers that may or may not turn out to be scams.
Users are reporting error messages when they try to scan their driving licence or the photo on their passport, get their face ID verified, confirm their personal details, access their jab certificates… The list goes on.
Apologies to anyone who believes they’ve ever met or spoken with me – the NHS Scotland Covid Status app says I don’t exist, sorry pic.twitter.com/CtjaVyRVvC
— Jon Brady (@jonbradyphoto) September 30, 2021
And it’s not a good look.
When Nicola Sturgeon announced a two week grace period for the rollout of the Covid vaccine passport scheme earlier this week I was pretty relaxed about it.
Nightclub operators have previously raised concerns about the haste of the introduction.
A delay gives them more time to put the necessary steps in place at their end.
But it’s clear now it’s not just the nightclub operators who have a lot of work to do over the grace period.
Ammunition for vaccine doubters
The vaccine passport scheme has been touted as the vital next step in Scotland’s recovery from Covid.
They’ve been shown to limit the spread of infection and boost uptake of the vaccination elsewhere.
There’s a lot riding on this. Especially since similar plans were ditched south of the border.
But it’s hard to spin the launch as anything other than a shambles.
And I’m not that person who has bashed the Scottish Government every step of the way on Covid.
Or ambulance delays, or accident and emergency waiting times, or GP shortages. Or any of the other health crises that are piling up. These are unprecedented times. I’m glad I’m not in charge.
And I’m not planning on attending any more big events any time soon. So I can sit this one out and hope they get the messaging and the mechanics sorted out before I need to show my vaccination status.
But I do have an interest in being part of a society where people have faith in the government’s handling of public health emergencies.
Good. Vaccine Passports are an authoritarian abomination (even more so in relation to vaccines which don’t prevent transmission). The more problems they face the better. #NoVaccinePassportsAnywhere https://t.co/dO5RMZX0w5
— Neil Clark (@NeilClark66) October 1, 2021
We all do.
And it’s not just people complaining that they can’t get on to the vaccine passport app who are flooding social media this morning.
There are plenty of others seizing on the problems as a reason to doubt the whole system – and suggesting that if enough people refuse to use the passports the government will be forced to abandon the plans.
The Covid vaccine passport app launch is a mess in anyone’s book.
Serious questions will have to be answered on how it went so wrong.
But if the shambles isn’t sorted out before the grace period ends on October 18 we really might be heading into uncharted territory.