Tech

Randox Certifly app has to be side-loaded on Android phones

If you’re paying for a vital service such as a COVID-19 test when travelling abroad, it’s reasonable to expect it to be backed by an approved app from one of the major app stores. However not if that test is from health lab Randox.

No, to install its mandatory Certifly app on an Android device, you need to enable side-loading of apps from unknown sources, then follow a link or a QR code.

Randox does have a presence on the Google App Store, but that app doesn’t include the Certifly functionality. That’s a significant drawback when such a test is a legal requirement.

At £20 per test, and given that the app is already at version 1.7 less than a month after it was launched, frustrated testees are asking what’s taking so long.

Randox told us the delay lies with Google: “Google Play has indicated that adjusted work schedules are causing longer than usual review times for app submissions. Randox can confirm the CertiFly app has been submitted to Google and is awaiting review.”

Maybe users should stick to plain old dead-tree printouts in the meantime. Your reporter and his family travelled in and out of the British Isles via London Gatwick last month. Despite a dozen pages of documentation per person, we were disappointed to note no COVID-related checks (or even checkpoints) there whatsoever, unlike at the start and end of the trip… but we don’t recommend betting your trip on that.

Privacy and security concerns are an issue about tools whose purpose is to track or identify people – especially when it’s a matter of life or death. Unfortunately, the British government has a poor record at this, although it promised to tighten up its act. At least the app didn’t cost £14m, wasn’t legally questionable, and didn’t record who had it or not.

If the Randox name sounds familiar, it might be because it paid former Secretary of State Owen Paterson rather more per year as a part-time consultant than his ministerial salary.

He was formerly the Environment Secretary who backed the badger cull until he was sacked by then Prime Minister David Cameron.

His salary won’t have dented Randox’s finances too hard in so far the government has awarded it, according to Labour leader Keir Starmer, “government contracts worth over £600m, without competition or tender”.

Readers may have also noticed questions have been raised following an investigation into Randox’s methods and procedures, and not for the first time. In January 2017 Randox reported it had discovered an alleged manipulation of quality data within its laboratory processes in Manchester, causing forensic results on over 8,000 police cases to be retested. In August 2020, it had to recall 750,000 test kits sent to care homes and elsewhere, because swabs were “not up to standard.” ®


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