UK

NHS Covid-tracking app gets tweaked to alert fewer people to self-isolate

Hated NHS Covid app will FINALLY be adjusted to give out fewer alerts amid ‘pingdemic chaos’: Tens of thousands people will be spared isolation by update that will only count contact from two days before a positive test – instead of five

  • Health Secretary Sajid Javid said changes were about ‘striking the right balance’
  • App will now only find close contacts two days before someone tested positive
  • But beforehand it trawled back for five days before sending alerts out

The NHS Covid-tracking app was today updated to alert fewer users to self-isolate in the hope of combating Britain’s ‘pingdemic’ chaos.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the changes would ‘ensure we are striking the right balance’ between reducing disruption and protecting those at risk.

Health chiefs have now begged the country to keep using the ‘life-saving’ software.

The app — which only offers self-isolation guidance and isn’t enforceable by law — will now only find close contacts of all infected people two days before they tested positive. 

Before now, it trawled back through a user’s Bluetooth history for five days to send out quarantine alerts.

The app has sparked a ‘pingdemic’ across the country with one in ten pubs and restaurants were forced to close last month because so many staff members were forced into self-isolation.

Ministers have brought in daily testing to replace stay-at-home requirements for workers in ‘key’ professions. 

The tweak comes two weeks before double-vaccinated Britons are set to be allowed to dodge quarantine if they have been near someone who tested positive for the virus. Ministers are under pressure to push this deadline forward. 

The NHS Covid-tracking app was today updated to alert fewer users to self-isolate in hope of combating Britain’s ‘pingdemic’ chaos. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the changes would ‘ensure we are striking the right balance’ between reducing disruption and protecting those at risk

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the changes would 'ensure we are striking the right balance' between reducing disruption and protecting those at risk

Dr Jenny Harries called on Britons to keep using the app. She is pictured above at a Downing Street press conference

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the changes would ‘ensure we are striking the right balance’ between reducing disruption and protecting those at risk. Dr Jenny Harries called on Britons to keep using the app. She is pictured above at a Downing Street press conference

One in ten pubs and restaurants closed last month amid ‘pingdemic’

One in ten hospitality businesses in Britain had to close over the last month as the ‘pingdemic’ had a major impact on staffing levels, an industry expert said today.

The chief executive of UKHospitality highlighted how huge numbers of workers were being told to self-isolate at the same time as the reopening of the hospitality sector.

Kate Nicholls added that one in five firms have had to ‘significantly adjust their offer or services’ to cope with the pandemic as their revenues plunged. 

The ‘pingdemic’ has seen record numbers of people being alerted by the NHS Covid-19 app to self-isolate in recent weeks, including 700,000 for the week to July 21.

The Government rolled out exemptions for workers it deems to be employed in critical industries, such as those in the food sector, transport and waste collection.

Daily negative test results can enable such workers who have been alerted by the app or called by NHS Test and Trace as coronavirus contacts to continue working.

Ms Nicholls told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘In the last month one in 10 of our businesses have had to close their sites and more importantly one in five have had to significantly adjust their offer or services in order to cope with the pandemic.’

Mr Javid said: ‘We want to reduce the disruption that self-isolation can cause for people and businesses, while ensuring we’re protecting those most at risk from this virus. 

‘This update to the app will help ensure that we are striking the right balance.

‘It’s so important that people isolate when asked to do so in order to stop the spread of the virus and protect their communities.’   

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘The NHS Covid App is a really practical example of how technology can be used to fight the biggest challenges we face in protecting and improving our health.

‘The app is the simplest, easiest, and fastest way to find out whether you have been exposed to the virus, and it has saved thousands of lives over the course of this pandemic.

‘I strongly encourage everyone, even those fully vaccinated, to continue using the app. 

‘It is a lifesaving tool that helps us to stay safe and to protect those closest to us as we return to a more familiar way of life.’ 

A Department of Health spokeswoman claimed around 40 per cent of British adults are using the app.

But polling suggests many Britons have already deleted or deactivated the device because they do not want to self-isolate.

Ministers are planning to relax strict rules to allow double-jabbed people who are a close contact of a Covid case not to self-isolate from August 16.

But they are under mounting pressure to bring this date forward to be in line with Wales, which will allow the double-jabbed not to self-isolate from August 7.  

The ‘pingdemic’ has left supermarkets with empty shelves and bins lying in the street because so many staff have been told to stay at home for ten days.

The chief of UKHospitality Kate Nicholls says it also forced one in ten pubs and restaurants to close their doors.

Ministers said last week that people in the food industry, transport, Border Force staff, frontline police and fire services could all take daily tests instead of self-isolating.

They have since added bin collectors, prison staff and those working in defence to the list.

The scheme — which will see 2,000 testing sites set up nationwide — will see lateral flow tests offered to all eligible workers who are pinged by the app or called by NHS Test and Trace.

The app sent a record 700,000 alerts in the week to July 21, the latest available, which was the highest number on record.

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