'Pingdemic' u-turn: NHS COVID-19 app updated so fewer people will have to self-isolate

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that the NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app has received an update today (Monday August 2), meaning fewer contacts will be asked to self-isolate. In the past few weeks the NHS Covid 19 app has been sending out hundreds of thousands of alerts asking people to self isolate. In the week leading up to July 21 689,313 alerts were sent out to NHS Covid-19 app users in England and Wales.

This was a record number of alerts sent out in what has been dubbed the ‘pingdemic’.

The previous week 618,903 people were being pinged by the app, which is having knock-on effects for businesses struggling to deal with staff being told to stay at home.

Speaking about the news, Health Secretary Sajid 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.”

However, opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer previously criticised the decision to make changes to the Covid 19 app, comparing it to taking “batteries out of smoke alarm”.

The Labour leader said: “It’s like taking the batteries out of the smoke alarm: it is so obviously to weaken the defences that we have – and if the consequence of the prime minister’s decision is that people are deleting the NHS app, or the app is being weakened, then that’s a pretty good indicator that the decision of the prime minister is wrong”.

The DHSC has said the “logic” which that is central to identifying and notifying close contact has been changed.

The app previously looked back five days at contacts who has tested positive for coronavirus. Now it will cover two days.

The Government said fewer people who were in contact with someone when they were unlikely to be at the peak of their infectiousness will be asked to self-isolate.

The DHSC also said the sensitivity of the app has not changed nor has the threshold for risk.

While the same number of high-risk contacts will be told to self isolate.

More to follow…

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