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‘Pingdemic’ chaos with record 520,000 alerts sent by NHS app last week

NHS Covid app (pictured) will not be made less sensitive for weeks, reports say

The NHS Covid contact-tracing app sent out a record 520,000 self-isolation alerts last week, official figures revealed today amid mounting concerns over the chaos triggered by the ‘pingdemic’.

The number of ‘pings’ dished out by the software in the week ending July 7 was the highest since the data was first published in January, and was up 46 per cent on the previous seven-day spell.  

Fears have been raised that the software could cripple the nation’s already fragile economy this summer when restrictions are completely lifted. 

Businesses demanding a re-think of the rules have warned supermarket shelves may be left empty if tens of thousands of workers are told they must self-isolate in the coming weeks, while there are fears piles of rubbish may pile up in the street.

Unions have said factories across the country are on the ‘verge of shutting’ down because of pings from the app. 

Up to 10 per cent of staff working at Nissan’s car plant in Sunderland have been told to self-isolate by the app, it was revealed today. 

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick today admitted No10 was ‘concerned’ about the number of people who may have to self-isolate because of the app.

Despite fears the chaos will only get worse over the next few weeks with infections expected to continue spiralling, it was claimed that the contact-tracing app may not be watered down after all. 

Government officials have been tasked with tweaking the software so fewer people are ‘pinged’ and told to self-isolate.

But sources told The Times that it was possible no changes will be made, and that if they are, they won’t happen until August 16 — the same day quarantine rules end for the fully-vaccinated.  

NHS England data showed a record 520,000 alerts were sent by the app last week, telling people they had been in close contact with someone who tested positive

NHS England data showed a record 520,000 alerts were sent by the app last week, telling people they had been in close contact with someone who tested positive

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured visiting Redcar last week) said ministers were still considering how the app could be updated

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured visiting Redcar last week) said ministers were still considering how the app could be updated 

NHS England data showed a record number of positive cases were linked to the app last week, as the third wave gathers steam.

There were 86,000 positive cases logged with the software, a surge of 40 per cent from 61,000 in the previous week.

And the number of alerts sent linked to venues more than doubled to 1,247 places.

These are sent when someone has visited a location, like a pub or restaurant, on the same day as another person who later tested positive for the virus. 

Hundreds of workers told to self-isolate at Sunderland car factory 

A car factory in Sunderland has been thrown into chaos by the NHS app, with hundreds told to isolate.

Reports suggest almost 700 workers are being forced to stay at home after receiving ‘pings’.

Nissan said it has ‘adjusted’ production at the Wearside site, which employs 7,000 people.

But unions are warning many factories are approaching collapse with so many staff members forced to stay home by self-isolation warnings.

In a statement to the Financial Times Nissan said it had ‘a number of staff being required to self-isolate following close contact with Covid’.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: ‘No one is advocating for Covid controls to go out the window and Unite’s number one priority remain the health and safety of our members.

‘But the reports Unite is receiving from our members and their employers are extremely worrying.

‘It is not an exagerration to say factories are on the verge of shutting and that at some sites hundreds of staff are off work.’ 

Ministers are understood to have been spooked out of tweaking the app by soaring infection rates, with the pressure of the third wave starting to trickle through to hospitals.

SAGE advisers have warned hospitalisations will only continue to rise, with around 2,000 admissions a day expected later this summer. 

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick called on Britons to keep using the app today, but hinted ministers were still mulling over how to update it. 

He told LBC: ‘It is important that we have the app, that we take it seriously, that when we do get those messages we act accordingly.

‘But we are going to give further thought to how we can ensure it is a proportionate response.’ 

Government sources last week told the Mail the app’s ‘sensitivity’ will be reduced to cut the numbers being asked to isolate unnecessarily.

It came after modelling warned up to 2million people could be told to quarantine at home every week by the app, if cases continue to spiral. 

Britain yesterday recorded 42,000 cases in the highest figure since mid-January, as the second wave was beginning to die down. Ministers fear they could spiral to 100,000 a day by mid-August.

Business leaders have warned the app could lead to a summer of chaos after Monday, when most remaining Covid curbs are due to be lifted. 

Lidl has party blamed empty shelves at some of its stores on so many truck drivers having to isolate.

And councils have raised concerns over bin collections after Leeds, Bristol and Rochdale were forced to leave resident’s rubbish on the curbside after the app forced workers to stay at home.

A record number of positive tests were also linked to the app last week, data showed. There were 86,000 cases logged with the app, up 40 per cent from 61,000 the previous week

A record number of positive tests were also linked to the app last week, data showed. There were 86,000 cases logged with the app, up 40 per cent from 61,000 the previous week

And the number of alerts sent out in relation to venues also more than doubled in seven days

And the number of alerts sent out in relation to venues also more than doubled in seven days

There are mounting warnings supermarket shelves could be left empty by the app

And bins could also be left to rot in the street because there are not enough staff available to self-isolate

There are mounting warnings supermarket shelves could be left empty by the app, and bins could also be left to rot in the street because there are not enough staff available to self-isolate

'Pingdemic' chaos with record 520,000 alerts sent by NHS app last week

'Pingdemic' chaos with record 520,000 alerts sent by NHS app last week

Thousands of ministers and officials are escaping self-isolation rules thanks to ‘get out of jail free card’ pilot scheme 

Thousands of ministers and government officials are escaping self-isolation thanks to a pilot scheme that amounts to a ‘get out of jail free card’, it was revealed.

The Cabinet Office, Border Force and Transport for London are among the bodies signed up to a trial that replaces quarantine with daily testing – meaning they can continue working after being ‘pinged’ for close contact with a positive case.

Michael Gove used the arrangements to avoid self-isolating when he returned from watching the Champions’ League final in Porto in May.

Several Downing Street staff have benefited from the pilot, instead being able to take daily lateral flow tests to check whether they have the virus. They can carry on duties as normal unless they develop symptoms, but must still isolate when not at work.

According to the Telegraph, some politicians have likened the scheme – which is apparently in place in businesses in utilities, manufacturing and retail – to the famous Monopoly card.

Nadhim Zahawi highlighted at the weekend that daily testing could replace self-isolation more widely in future. However, the news will raise questions about whether ministers and civil servants are getting preferential treatment when hundreds of thousands of healthy members of the public are being forced into house arrest.

Self-isolation rules aren’t due to be relaxed for fully jabbed Britons until mid-August, which has led to fears many will delete the app in case a surge in infections post Freedom Day means they get ‘pinged’ and have to quarantine.

Business leaders have warned that the tough rules could lead to a summer of chaos after Monday, when most remaining Covid curbs are due to be lifted. Lidl has party blamed empty shelves at some of its stores on so many truck drivers having to isolate.

 

There are reports that up to one in five workers in pubs, restaurants and bars were also self-isolating due to the app.    

The NHS app — heralded as a way to halt the spread of the virus — uses Bluetooth to estimate how close a user has been to a Covid positive patient and for how long.

This information allows it to determine whether someone is at risk of catching the virus and if they should self-isolate.

Everyone who gets alerted is advised to self-isolate for ten days, even if they have had both doses of the vaccine or a negative test 

Ministers have promised to drop isolation requirements for the double-jabbed on August 16, but are under pressure to push this date forward. 

More than 26million Britons have downloaded the app — or around half the adults in the country — but many are now deleting and deactivating it.

Mr Jenrick said today the Government was ‘concerned’ about the number of people who may have to self-isolate because of the app, but that it should still be followed.

‘We have indicated that for those who have been double-vaccinated there are opportunities to take a more proportionate approach,’ he told LBC.

‘We are concerned about absences as a result of being pinged, for example.

‘That is one of the reasons why we do need to move to a more proportionate approach.’

It comes after polling revealed yesterday that a fifth of Britons are planning to delete the NHS app before ‘Freedom Day’ amid fears they may be asked to self-isolate.

It also found more than a third of 18 to 24-year-olds in the UK have already deleted the app, and another third say they are considering wiping it from their phones within the next week.

Among adults of all ages, the proportion debating deleting the app in the next six days was 20 per cent according to Savanta ComRes. 

It comes as it was revealed yesterday that thousands of ministers and government officials are escaping self-isolation thanks to a pilot scheme that amounts to a ‘get out of jail free card’.

The Cabinet Office, Border Force and Transport for London are among the bodies signed up to a trial that replaces quarantine with daily testing – meaning they can continue working after being ‘pinged’ for close contact with a positive case.

Michael Gove used the arrangements to avoid self-isolating when he returned from watching the Champions’ League final in Porto in May.

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