The UK took a number of measures to lift restrictions as soon as possible. In 2020, it approved and implemented a very costly tracking plan. The plan was very effective for the British government after the quarantine was lifted in the UK, but the NHS Test and Trace had its consequences, as well as many critics who put pressure on Boris Johnson. Boris Johnson also insists on the implementation of Brexit and continues to do so without heeding the criticism.
The expression is a play on words made up of the terms “pandemic” and “ping”. It refers to being notified by the NHS Covid-19 app on mobiles. When somebody is “pinged” by the app, they are advised to self-isolate for a set amount of time. The notification is sent after the app registers that they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
NHS Test and Trace will help to control the rate of reproduction (R), reduce the spread of the infection and save lives. By playing their part through the actions set out, they will directly help to contain the virus by reducing its spread. If anyone has symptoms, it means they and their household members must remain at home. They must not leave their home for any reason, whether to go to work, school or public places. They must also not use public transport or taxis. ‘Contact’ means a person who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 who may or may not live with them. It is a legal requirement to self-isolate if anyone tests positive for Covid-19 or if they are identified as a contact and told to self-isolate by Test and Trace. Failure to self-isolate for the full time-period can result in a fine, starting from £1,000.
The number of people being “pinged” by the app has risen sharply over recent weeks, causing difficulties for some industries as large numbers of staff are having to stay at home and self-isolate. Usually, those who are pinged will have to isolate for 10 days, though this can be longer if the person goes on to develop symptoms themselves.
A mass rollout of asymptomatic testing began in autumn 2020, which saw NHS Test and Trace distribute 691 million lateral flow devices in England between October 2020 and 26 May 2021; but only 96 million (14%) of these have been registered as used because there is no system in place to monitor or ensure that everyone reports their results.
The NHS Test and Trace has reduced the time taken between a person booking an in-person polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and their contacts being asked to self-isolate, but this represents a minority of tests. The service does not have targets for how quickly the contacts of those testing positive should be reached for other types of PCR tests, such as home-based tests, and its targets do not cover the period between a person experiencing symptoms and coming forward for a test.
According to the Health Department, the number of people using the NHS Test and Trace app to register at pubs, shops and other venues fell by 10% from the previous week. The fall suggests more people may have deactivated or deleted the app to avoid being put into isolation if they came close to someone who later tested positive for the virus.
A recent survey by YouGov suggested that one in 10 previous users of the app had deleted it, while one in five who still had the app installed had turned off its contact-tracing capabilities. The app sends out a notification recommending self-isolation, after using a smartphone’s Bluetooth signals to anonymously detect when a user has spent time close to someone who subsequently tested positive for the virus. More than 4m such alerts have now been sent by the NHS Covid app in England and Wales since its launch last September.
This epidemic of notifications has become a major issue in the British public debate. “I would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused by these notifications […], but I would like to reiterate that isolation is a vital tool in defending against the spread of disease,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 21 July, who was himself quarantined after being “pinged” by the app. But pressure on the government to find a way out of the situation is mounting as more and more sectors of the economy are affected by the pandemic.
Several supermarket chains have announced in recent days that they have been forced to close shops across the country due to the high number of employee absences, forced to quarantine themselves. In some areas, up to 30% of staff in these supermarkets has been notified by the NHS, the Guardian reports. Too many people are pretending really hard that they saw no empty supermarket shelves in the UK before the latest Covid wave & that Brexit is in no way responsible.
A record 600,000 people were ordered to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app in the week leading to 14 July as worker shortages caused by the latest wave of the pandemic in the UK threatened to disrupt food and fuel supplies. The number of “pings” from the NHS Covid Test and Trace app telling people who have been in close contact with someone testing positive for coronavirus rose by about 17% from the previous week’s total to 607,486 in England. A further 11,417 contact-tracing alerts were sent in Wales, the latest figures released by the Department of Health revealed on Thursday. However, the rate of growth has slowed over the previous week, when the number of alerts jumped by 46% to more than 520,000.
During the same week ending 14 July, daily Covid-19 cases in the UK rose by more than 60%, reaching their highest point since mid-January. British business leaders have become increasingly agitated by the impact of the “pingdemic” on staffing, which has exacerbated existing problems caused by Brexit and a shortage of lorry drivers. On Thursday, BP said it had closed a “handful of sites” due to a lack of unleaded petrol and diesel, while the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government was “monitoring” the situation as supermarkets apologised for empty shelves.
Many plans were introduced to control the pandemic, eventually agreed upon at a high cost and much publicity. Given the NHS Covid app capabilities, they may also have wanted a plan that would make it easier for them to spy on the British due to the sensitive position of the United Kingdom in Brexit, cases of independence in some states and ongoing protests. But this app caused inconvenience to the people who used it, especially the workers. As soon as their test becomes positive, they have to quarantine themselves and those around them, otherwise they will have to pay a heavy fine. It also brings with it isolation and psychological issues. In addition, the UK has to provide its own manpower after Brexit, so it is also facing a labour shortage.