New record in ‘pingdemic’ with almost 690,000 told to self-isolate last week

More alerts than ever before were sent on the NHS Covid-19 app last week (Picture: Getty Images / PA)

A record number of alerts were sent to people using the NHS Covid-19 app last week telling them to self-isolate.

Some 689,313 people in England and Wales in the week to July 21 were told they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus, according to the latest NHS statistics.

The figures come as the Government has taken steps in recent days to combat the so-called ‘pingdemic’, which has put the economy under strain and forced critical workers to stay at home even if they don’t have the virus.

A list of key workers has been published, allowing them to skip self-isolation instructions if they have received both their vaccinations ‘to avoid disruption to crucial services’.

Those working in medicine, food production and supply, energy, water, prisons, defence are some of the sectors which are exempt from quarantine.

According to the updated guidance, officials will ‘agree the roles and workplaces that are likely to meet the criteria’ for the self-isolation exemption ‘on a daily basis’.

And reports say double-jabbed people will not be legally obliged to take a Covid-19 test to avoid self isolation from next month.

It had been expected that when the rules change again on August 16, fully vaccinated people would need to take a test to leave isolation if they come into contact with a positive case or get pinged by the app.

Have you been pinged yet? (Picture: Getty Images)

But now it appears that tests will only be encouraged rather than mandatory for, unless those people develop symptoms.

The announcements came after businesses warned the situation around alerts from the NHS Covid app is ‘untenable’.

A spokesperson for the British Meat Processors Association warned that test and trace requirements ‘on top of the desperate shortage of workers that the industry is already suffering’ could lead to a drop in production.

They called on the government to allow businesses to ‘temporarily fill these growing vacancies with overseas workers’.

‘If the UK workforce situation deteriorates further, companies will be forced to start shutting down production lines altogether,’ they added.

Tim Morris, chief executive of UK Major Ports Group, told The Telegraph that ‘there has to be a risk of disruption to important supply chains, including food’ if absences keep increasing.

And in a mass revolt against the ‘pingdemic’, nearly one in four people now say they have deleted or switched off the NHS Covid-19 app.

The backlash was heightened by Boris Johnson’s attempt to avoid quarantine after he came into contact with health secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for the virus two weeks ago.

Both the prime minister and chancellor Rishi Sunak planned to use a testing scheme loophole to avoid having to go into isolation, until public outrage forced them into a dramatic U-turn.

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