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

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The NHS Covid 19 tracing app has been updated to send fewer alerts to people (Image: GETTY)

The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that the NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app has been updated to reduce its sensitivity so that fewer contacts are needed to self-isolate. In recent weeks, the NHS Covid 19 app has sent out hundreds of thousands of alerts – known as ‘pings’ – asking people to self-isolate at home. The app relies on Bluetooth to assess your proximity to people. If you record a positive test, that location data will be used to track people who may have been close enough to contract the virus for at least 15 minutes or more. In the week ending July 21, a record 689,313 alerts were sent to NHS Covid-19 app users in England and Wales.

The sheer number of people forced to self-isolate because of notifications from the app has brought a number of key industries to a standstill, including truck drivers, grocery store workers, and more. The sheer number of alerts sent has led to this period being labeled a “pingdemic”.

The week before, 618,903 people were pinged by the app, which has a knock-on effect for businesses struggling to deal with staff being told to stay home. Speaking about the news, Health Minister Sajid Javid said: “We want to reduce the disruption self-isolation can cause to people and businesses, while making sure we protect those most at risk from this virus. This update to the app will help ensure that we find the right balance.

“It is so important that people isolate themselves when asked to stop the spread of the virus and protect their communities.”

READ MORE: Covid Vaccine: 23 Million Get Pfizer Winter Jab

Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer, however, has previously criticized the decision to make changes to the Covid 19 app, comparing it to removing “batteries from smoke detectors”.

The Labor leader said: “It’s like taking the batteries out of the smoke alarm: it’s so obvious to weaken the defenses we have – and if the result of the Prime Minister’s decision is people not using the NHS app or the deleting the app is weakened, then that’s a pretty good indication that the Prime Minister’s decision is wrong.”

The Ministry of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said the logic, which is central to identifying and reporting close contact, has changed in the latest version of the smartphone app. The app previously looked back five days on contacts who have now tested positive for coronavirus. Now it will only take two days.

The government said fewer people who were in contact with someone who were probably not at the peak of their infectiousness would be asked to self-isolate.

NHS Covid 19 app now sends fewer alerts

NHS Covid 19 app now sends fewer alerts asking people to self-isolate (Image: GETTY)

The DHSC also said the app’s sensitivity has not changed, nor has the risk threshold. While the same number of high-risk contacts will be told to self-isolate.

The news comes as the Ministry of Health and Social Care’s Twitter account revealed the latest UK vaccine statistics.

The @DHSCgovuk Twitter posted: “#COVID19 VACCINE UPDATE: Daily figures on the total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses given in the UK. As of August 2, 85,336,436 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given in the UK.”

At the time of writing, the DHSC Twitter has yet to reveal the latest Covid-19 case numbers.

On Sunday, it was announced that the UK had registered 24,470 new cases of coronavirus and 65 additional deaths. The figures for Monday are expected in a few hours.

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I work as the Content Writer for Gaming Ideology. I play Quake like professionally. I love to write about games and have been writing about them for two years.

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