On Wednesday 4th of August 2021, UK Ministers announced changes to the NHS Track and Trace app following the ‘pingdemic’, where many of the UK public were forced into isolation after being notified by the NHS Track and Trace App. This was causing distress across several industries, particularly those in the hospitality sector where many establishments were becoming understaffed due to employees having to isolate.
The alerts are generated by an algorithm that tracks whether an individual has been within 2 metres of someone who later tests positive for COVID for over 15 minutes and also through check-in data for restaurants and venues. The number of people contacted by the app reached record levels in the week of 21 July, with more than 685,000 people told to self-isolate. Industry bosses warned the UK Gov that hospitality may be forced into a backdoor lockdown if the rules for the track and trace app were not adjusted now that the public is returning to mass socialisation, and case numbers were on the rise.
In December 2020, an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) established on the Night-Time Economy, warned the government urgent action was required to prevent the overall extinction of UK Nightlife. Many in the Hospitality Sector, especially those in nightclubs and theatres, saw their doors closed for well over a year, and on top of the loans and grants that were available industry-wide, industry-specific schemes had to be put in place for those in hospitality, to support them further and ensure they would see the other side of the pandemic. Because of this, it was essential to ensure that hospitality had a strong start when reopening, to optimise recovery and growth. Instead, in recent weeks Britain has seen establishments close as record numbers of people were told to stay at home following a surge in cases around the ending of legal Covid restrictions.
On the flip side of this, the disruption caused by the ‘pingdemic’ has caused many to delete the test and trace app, in the hopes that they would avoid being ‘pinged’. The health department has said that the app thus far has prevented thousands of potential infections, and so the possibility of many deleting this app to avoid being ‘pinged’, stirred worries throughout the general UK public.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid has said on the matter: “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.’
From Monday 9th August, sensitivity on the app changed, so only those who have been in ‘close contact’ with someone two days prior, rather than 5, will be contacted by Track and Trace. In hopes of reducing the numbers of those affected. The next step will take place on the 16th of August and from this date, those who have been double vaccinated, and all under-18 will no longer be required to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Instead, they will be advised to take a PCR test and will only have to isolate if they too test positive.
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