Pingdemic: Government to update NHS COVID-19 app to reduce number of workers forced to self-isolate

The ‘pingdemic’ crisis blighting the retail industry could soon be over as the government announces plans for “an update to the app”.

Retailers across the UK are continuing to struggle to keep their shelves stocked as record numbers of staff continuing to face self-isolation after coming into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the latest figures the number of self-isolation alerts sent by the app rose by 70,000 across England and Wales in the week to July 21, hitting a new weekly record of 689,313.

The government has now announced plans for an update to the NHS COVID-19 app in a bid “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.”

Currently the app will ‘ping’ a person if they come into close contact with a someone five days prior to them inputting a positive coronavirus test result into the app.

READ MORE: Retail worst hit by ‘pingdemic’ as nearly 75,000 staff forced to self-isolate this month

This threshold will now be reduced to two days, but the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) says the sensitivity or risk threshold for the app remains the same.

The changes will, according to the government, mean less people who have come into a contact with a person when they are unlikely to be at the peak of infectiousness will be told to self-isolate.

While the changes have been celebrated by many, others say it is not going far or quickly enough to release the pressure on retail and hospitality.

Labour’s shadow health minister Liz Kendall said: “This is yet another COVID U-turn from ministers at a time when the public need clarity and certainty – not chaos and mixed messages. It’s shambolic and they must get a grip.”

The government is also facing calls to bring forward changes, due to come into effect on August 16, which will allow double vaccinated people to avoid self-isolation when pinged.

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