Pingdemic

Death of the NHS Covid Pingdemic App

The app responsible for England’s hated ‘pingdemic’ is on the brink of death, according to experts. NHS data showed usage is up to 180 times lower than it was. MailOnline has more.

At the peak of its powers in summer, there were as many as 14.5million check-ins a week, the equivalent of around one in four people scanning a barcode once.

Yet latest figures reveal just 220,000 people used the QR-code software to sign in at pubs, restaurants and other venues in the week ending October 27, meaning usage has plummeted 60-fold nationally.

But MailOnline analysis of the NHS data shows the drop was even starker in parts of the country. Just 557 check-ins were made in Liverpool during the final week of October, compared to around 100,000 in June. Manchester and Wandsworth also saw massive drops.

Scientists today called on ministers to ‘junk’ the app for good or encourage people to use it more, warning it was now only having an ‘at best’ minimal impact on the spread of the virus.

The software was part of the £37 billion Test and Trace, which MPs labelled an “eye-watering” waste of taxpayers’ money that “did not achieve” its main objective of putting the lid on the spread of the virus. It also played a huge role in the country’s ‘pingdemic’, urging hundreds of thousands of workers to quarantine at home, leaving shelves empty and rubbish piled high in the streets.

Professor Kevin McConway, a statistician at the Open University, argued it was likely even fewer people were using the app, which cost £35 million to develop, than the figures suggested because the few still plugged in were likely using it to check-in to more than one venue a week.

He warned that checking into venues using the software was “perhaps not far off being dead”.

Worth reading in full.

Fantastic news!

Family Butchers Facing Prosecution For Taking Children Out of School to Avoid Closure During Busy Christmas Season

A couple who run a butchers shop in Lancashire are being prosecuted by their local authority for taking their 10 year-old daughter out of school in the run-up to Christmas last year. They were concerned that if they left her and their other daughter, aged 14, in school there was a risk they would be sent home to self-isolate and they, in turn, would be ‘pinged’, forcing them to close their shop during their busiest time of year. Ryan and Faye Moffat have explained what this would have meant:

A business closure at that time of year (the run up to Xmas) would have been financially devastating for our business and family. In addition to the loss of sales profit (which helps to sustain our business during the quieter times of year), we were carrying an exceptionally large volume of perishable stock which was at risk of write-off. Also, failure to fulfil Xmas orders could have had a long-term impact on business goodwill, potentially resulting in a complete business failure.

Failure to pay our mortgage could have resulted in the loss of both our business premises and living accommodation.

The school of their 14 year-old daughter had no objection to her being taken out and home schooled for the last 13 days of term, but their 10 year-old daughter’s school refused permission. Quite extraordinary, given that the school had no compunction about sending children home from March to September. Why was it okay for children to be home schooled for half the year – completely pointlessly, I might add – but not for 13 days to save a family business? Had the Moffats told the school their daughter had Covid symptoms, the school would have instructed them to keep her at home. But they told the truth.

Very sensibly, the Moffats decided to take their 10 year-old out of school anyway – and now they’re being prosecuted by the local education authority. It beggars belief that ratepayers’ money is being spent on this vexatious case.

When the Moffats contacted me, they were planning to represent themselves in court because they couldn’t afford a lawyer. I put them in touch with an experienced criminal solicitor and urged them to start a fundraiser to pay the legal fees, estimated to be £3,000. I’m happy to say they’ve now done this. Please do make a donation so Ryan and Faye are able to fight their corner. You can find the fundraiser here.

Fewer Cars Produced Last Month by British Factories Than in Any July Since 1956

Demand for new cars may not have fallen too far over the past year of lockdowns, but staff absences caused by the ‘pingdemic’ and problems in supply chains means car manufacturers have recently been struggling to keep up. In July this year, the U.K. car industry produced fewer cars than in any other July since 1956. The Guardian has the story.

U.K. carmakers made 53,400 vehicles in July, a 37.6% drop when compared with the same month in 2020, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the industry’s lobby group. …

Manufacturers around the world have struggled to keep producing because of problems in their supply chains, most notably in the months-long delays to computer chips, or semiconductors, that are used to control everything from windscreen wipers to electric car batteries within the car.

Some analysts expect the chip shortages to last until next year, holding back the recovery of the car industry.

U.K. production over the course of 2021 is up by 18% compared with the first seven months of 2020, when car factories were shut for long periods during the first national lockdowns. Yet at 552,400 units, it is 29% below the 774,800 it reached over the same period in 2019 before the pandemic.

No large carmaker has been spared, and buyers are being forced to wait months for some new cars. German carmaker Volkswagen last week warned that it may have to scale back production further, after Japanese rival Toyota said that it would cut output by 40% in September.

Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan, the two largest manufacturers in the U.K., have both previously been forced to cut production because of shortages.

During June and July manufacturers also had to contend with increased levels of employee absences, as more and more workers were ‘pinged’ by their NHS apps when they had come into contact with people who later tested positive for coronavirus. …

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s Chief Executive, said U.K. carmakers still faced “extremely tough conditions”.

“While the impact of the ‘pingdemic’ will lessen as self-isolation rules change, the worldwide shortage of semiconductors shows little sign of abating,” he said.

Worth reading in full.

The ‘Pingdemic’ Is Dead, Long Live the ‘Pingdemic’!

The end of self-isolation rules for double jabbed Brits who are ‘pinged’ or contacted by NHS Test and Trace after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid is “dangerous” and “totally illogical” (but not illogical in the way that Toby pointed out earlier), says the Deputy General Secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union. He is one of the sizable number of industry leaders who have called for staff to be supported if they choose to stay at home after being ‘pinged’, despite concerns over staff shortages caused by the ‘pingdemic‘ (which is said to have finished). The Telegraph has the story.

Railway workers and doctors have been backed to stay at home if they come into contact with a Covid case despite new rules allowing double jabbed people to return to their jobs.

Meanwhile, industry leaders called for further clarity on whether staff alerted by NHS Test and Trace could be compelled to come back to the workplace. …

Steve Hedley, the Deputy General Secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union, criticised the change [to self-isolation rules] as “dangerous” and “totally illogical” and backed staff who refused to come back to the workplace.

“This is a dangerous approach by the Government because the evidence shows that the link between the virus and deaths has been weakened, but it hasn’t been broken,” Mr Hedley said.

He added: “Many workers will be concerned at spreading or catching Covid if people pinged by the app are allowed to come back to their jobs straight away. If they choose to stay at home, we would support them. No one should be forced to go back to work.

“The railway companies have assured us that it will still be voluntary for people to come back to work. It must stay that way.”

The British Medical Association added that healthcare workers who want to self-isolate “should not be penalised in any way for doing so”.

Meanwhile, business leaders welcomed the relaxed rules but called for clarity on whether staff could be compelled to return to work if they come into contact with a Covid case.

Kate Nicholls, the Chief Executive of U.K. Hospitality, said guidance should be “black and white” rather than leaving the choice up to individual employers.

“Employers want to know with more certainty what they should do in those circumstances,” she said. …

Ms Nicholls also called for a further relaxation of the rules to allow younger people who have not yet had both jabs to be spared from automatic self-isolation.

Worth reading in full.

Double Jabbed No Longer Need to Self-Isolate if ‘Pinged’, Even Though Vaccines Don’t Stop You Getting Infected

From today, those who’ve had two Covid vaccinations no longer need to self-isolate if they get ‘pinged’ or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace notifying them they’ve come into contact with someone who’s tested positive. The BBC has more.

People in England and Northern Ireland who have had two Covid vaccine doses will no longer have to isolate if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

Instead of having to quarantine for 10 days, they are now advised to take a PCR test – but this is not compulsory.

They are also advised to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces and to limit contact with others, especially the clinically vulnerable.

The guidance applies to under-18s too.

The changes to self-isolation rules have already been implemented in Scotland and Wales.

The relaxed rules in England and Northern Ireland are expected to significantly reduce the number of people being compelled to stay at home.

At its peak in July, the number of self-isolation alerts sent in England and Wales in a week was just under 700,000.

This is welcome news, obviously, but, like so much of the Government’s decision making about the coronavirus crisis, it’s completely illogical. After all, people who’ve been double jabbed are not significantly less likely to catch COVID-19 or infect others than the unvaccinated. This rule change, which was announced last month, seems to have been made before the evidence about just how ineffective the vaccines are when it comes to protecting people from infection had been digested by the Government. Or maybe the Government had digested it, but decided to press ahead with the relaxation of self-isolation rules anyway because of the havoc the ‘pingdemic’ was wreaking.

Can we now abandon the stupid contact-tracing rules for the unvaccinated, too?

Number of NHS App ‘Pings’ Falls by 43% In a Week but Remains Close to 400,000

The number of people told to self-isolate in one week by the NHS Covid app has finally fallen after previously rising for three weeks in a row, but the total number of ‘pings’ sent out remains high after businesses leaders said recent changes to the app came “too little, too late“. The Guardian has the story.

A total of 395,971 alerts were sent in the week to July 28th telling people in England and Wales they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus – down from 690,129 the week before.

Though reports have suggested that use of the app is decreasing, the large fall in alerts has been matched by a similar decline in the number of recorded cases over the same period.

A total of 189,232 people tested positive for Covid in England at least once in the week to July 28th, down 39% on the previous week, according to the latest test and trace figures.

The number of check-ins to venues using the app also dropped. There were 2.4 million check-ins in the week to July 28th in England and Wales – down 65% on the previous week.

A major incentive for having it downloaded was removed following the easing of coronavirus restrictions in England from July 19th onwards, when it ceased to be compulsory to check into venues, which most people did by scanning a QR code with the app.

The number of app downloads has shrunk dramatically since the rule change, while many others will have deleted it amid reports of a ‘pingdemic’ of workers across the country being forced to isolate after receiving alerts, affecting supply chains and the economy. …

Karan Bilimoria, the Confederation of British Industry President, said the fall in alerts was welcome but said businesses were still struggling with self-isolating employees.

“It’s good to see a steep fall in those having to self-isolate, but this doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. The latest numbers remain too high and illustrate the frustration facing firms as existing staff shortages are exacerbated by unnecessary self-isolation. Amending the app is a welcome recognition of the problem but won’t provide the solution,” Lord Bilimoria said.

Worth reading in full.

Queues at Heathrow Are a Quarter Mile Long Thanks to ‘Pingdemic’

Departure queues at Heathrow Airport are up to a quarter of a mile long, thanks to the fact that 25% of staff have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid App. The Mirror has more.

Huge queues have built up at Heathrow Airport amid a suspected Covid outbreak among staff, it has been reported.

Frustrated passengers have been stuck waiting for hours at the London airport today.

Some reported tension within the queues, with people jostling and pushing just to get into the terminal.

The lack of social distancing has led to concerns among some that the virus could spread as crowded people wait to get on their flights.

Problems with the e-gates and sickness among Border Force staff are behind the delays, the Times reports.

You can read the Times report about the queues here.

Change to NHS Covid App “Too Little, Too Late”, Say Business Leaders

Fewer people will be told to self-isolate in the coming weeks following an update to the NHS Covid app which means only those who have come into contact with an asymptomatic case in the past 48 hours (rather than the past five days) will be ‘pinged’. But this is only likely to prevent up to one fifth of ‘pings’, according to reports, highlighting that the ‘pingdemic‘ is far from over.

The response to the update from business leaders has been cold. The main impression seems to be that the change is “too little, too late”. A spokesman for the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) think tank says the app – even in its new form – is “designed for a world with no treatments and no vaccines” and so has no place in Britain. MailOnline has more.

U.K. Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said more had to be done, with the fact that fully vaccinated staff still having to self-isolate being a “significant barrier to venues operating viably and moving towards recovery”.

And the ASI said the Government should now consider handing impacted firms a rebate for the “lost business the NHS app has taken out of our productive and otherwise healthy economy”.

Ms Nicholls said: “This intervention from Government is absolutely necessary to prevent a complete loss of summer trading for the hospitality sector following prolonged periods of severely disrupted trading.

“This will help to alleviate some of the pressure currently being experienced by hard-hit businesses, but is not a silver bullet.” …

She added that the industry body’s research found more than 250,000 hospitality workers are being affected by ‘pings’ at any given point by the app.

And a spokesman for the ASI said: “This is exceptionally welcome for firms struggling with employees off – not because they’ve got Covid but because of an app designed for a world with no treatments and no vaccines.

“It comes too little and too late though for so many companies that have lost revenue and taken on debt from reduced service provision and custom due to the app.” …

Although the change to the app is a major move to address the pingdemic, it will apply only in cases where Covid-carriers do not have symptoms – about one third of total infections.

This means hundreds of thousands are still likely to be pinged each week and the self-isolation carnage will continue to wreak havoc until the rules are fully relaxed later this month [but only for those who are fully vaccinated].

Currently when people are pinged by the app they are advised – but not legally obliged – to self-isolate for 10 days.

Trade union Unite said the change in guidance does not go far enough, and repeated its call for the automotive and steel sectors to be exempt from self-isolation rules. …

The Government said fewer people will now be pinged overall but the total number of “high-risk contacts being advised to self-isolate” will stay the same.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: “It’s time to embrace Britain’s jab success by scrapping Covid ‘ping’ app NOW,” says the Sun in its main leader today.

One in 10 Pubs and Restaurants Forced to Close Last Month Due to ‘Pingdemic’

Hospitality venues were relying on the easing of restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’ to make up for their lockdown losses, but they’ve found that one set of restrictions has simply been replaced by another. The Chief Executive of U.K. Hospitality reports that one in 10 pubs and restaurants have been forced to close over the past month because of staff shortages caused by the ‘pingdemic‘. One in five venues has also had to “significantly adjust their offer or services” to cope with the continued disruption to business. MailOnline has the story.

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

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 Covid contacts to continue working.

Kate Nicholls [of U.K. Hospitality] 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.”

She added: “The ‘pingdemic’ has hit at the same time as the reopening, they haven’t had time to rebuild cash reserves and so they are in quite a fragile state and the hit to revenues as a result of the pingdemic is running at about 15 to 20% of revenues for those businesses that are affected.

“So it is a significant suppression just at the point in time when these businesses needed to start recovering from about 16 months worth of closure and restrictions.” …

It comes as desperate councils are offering lorry drivers bonuses of £3,000 in a bid to clear the backlog of bin collections caused by the ‘pingdemic’.

Rubbish has piled up in many areas in recent weeks – with up to 40% of some local authority workforces having to isolate.

Some residents have been told to cut down on the amount of food that they throw out as piles of uncollected waste grow. 

Others have been asked not to put their bins out unless they are full, with collection services in dozens of areas running significantly behind schedule.

Separately, a new report has warned more than 1.1 million jobs remain unfilled as the pingdemic crisis worsens the shortage of workers.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Health Secretary has finally agreed to make the NHS Covid-tracking app less sensitive. Until now, it pinged people who’d been in contact with an infected person at any point during a five-day period before they tested positive; henceforth, that will be reduced to two days. MailOnline has the story.

Record 689,313 ‘Pings’ Sent Out by NHS Covid App in One Week

The number of people ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app has reached a record high for the third week in a row. In the week up to July 21st, 689,313 ‘pings’ were sent out by the app – over 70,000 more than were sent the week before. It remains to be seen whether the number of ‘pings’ recorded in the week up to July 28th, which saw reported ‘cases’ fall every day but one, will be lower than in previous weeks. Sky News has more.

The alerts tell people they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid.

The new number was recorded in the week up to July 21st and is an 11.4% increase on the week before. …

Businesses in all sectors have complained that they are struggling to maintain operations when so many staff have been told to stay at home to break the transmission.

The Government has said that some essential workers can now use daily testing to avoid having to isolate.

The car industry has joined calls for the Government to bring forward the date for exempting fully-vaccinated adults from self-isolation rules.

It comes after a slump in production blamed on the so-called ‘pingdemic’.

Stock levels in relation to expected sales across the distribution sector reached a new record low this month, according to a key business survey.

Retailers are fretting over supplies and staffing as a result of the number of people being pinged.

Worth reading in full.