Mobile operators send coronavirus message to everyone in the UK

The government has had to rely on the support of operators to send the messages because it lacks the ability to do it on its own.

On Monday night, Boris Johnson announced that the United Kingdom was going into semi-lockdown, with the public only allowed to go out for essential items, medical emergencies, one session of exercise per day or to commute to work if absolutely necessary. All non-essential shops including clothing stores, libraries and electronic shops have been ordered to close.

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. New rules in effect now: you must stay home. More info and exemptions at Stay at home. "Protect the NHS. Save lives", the text read. 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.

The government has asked the UK's four major operators to send text messages to their customers, containing information on new measures created to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Despite trials of an emergency warning system earlier in the decade, the system has never been implemented. Harris told the "It's fallen between government departments as to who is going to pick up the bill, who's going to lead on it, and all sorts of issues", implying that a fight over budgets and responsibility has led to the United Kingdom not having this incredibly important system in place for a time of crisis.

The issue poses a challenge to the government if it intends to continue using text alerts as a means to communicate its advice.

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

South Korea's success in slowing the spread of Covid-19 has been at least partly attributed to an aggressive text messaging system deployed by the country, where alerts were sent out detailing the movements of people who had tested positive.

Such a service would have allowed the government to bypass the mobile networks and send messages directly to all of the UK's mobile phones.