All you need to know about 'pingdemic' gripping Britain

WION Web Team
London, United Kingdom Published: Jul 22, 2021, 05:18 PM(IST)

Pingdemic in Britain Photograph:( Agencies )

Story highlights

With millions of workers and schoolkids currently forced to stay home under COVID-19 tracing rules, in what has been dubbed a 'pingdemic' after the phone app used to contact, or ping, people who need to self-isolate, various industries are starting to suffer

British supermarkets and suppliers warned Thursday of possible food shortages due to staff self-isolating, as rising coronavirus cases threaten chaos after the government controversially eased all restrictions earlier this week.

English businesses are buckling under COVID-19 isolation demands due to a 'pingdemic' caused by a contact tracing app.

The app told hundreds of thousands of employees working in car plants, railways, supermarkets, and pubs to isolate, wrecking the recovery and pushing supply chains to the brink of collapse.

Cases of COVID-19 in Britain hit around 50,000 a day on some days last week.

Alerts, or "pings", sent out by the official app telling anyone identified as a contact of someone with the disease to self-isolate for 10 days have caused huge disruption in schools, businesses and the healthcare system.

The crisis, which comes just as the government lifts nearly all restrictions in England to help drive an economic recovery, has been dubbed the "Pingdemic".

Under pressure, the government said later on Monday it would allow workers in critical roles, such as air traffic controllers and train signallers, to carry on working despite being "pinged" if they were fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, finance minister Rishi Sunak and health minister Sajid Javid are all isolating after Javid tested positive. Some pubs have shut, supply chains are teetering and the car breakdown service AA warned of longer response times at call centres.

Carmaker Stellantis said its Vauxhall van factory in Luton would move from three shifts to two shifts for the duration of this week, and Nissan adjusted production in some areas of its Sunderland plant to counter lower staffing numbers.

"The pingdemic is here and businesses need urgent change," Richard Walker, the managing director of supermarket chain Iceland, said on Twitter.

Mixed signals

But the delay in implementing the new regime has been criticised, with Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, warning smaller firms could be forced to close before then.

"There will be many smaller businesses where if they only have one or two staff and they need to self-isolate, then that's them needing to close their doors completely," she told the BBC.

Meanwhile, the government has been criticised for compounding the crisis after providing mixed messages on the need to stay home if contacted by the tracer teams. 

While some ministers have insisted people must isolate if advised, two business ministers this week noted there is actually no legal requirement to isolate if they are pinged by the NHS app.

Only those contacted by the separately run NHS Test and Trace service must stay at home for 10 days by law.

The public already appeared increasingly sceptical of the isolation rules following the easing of restrictions, with reports many people are deleting the app or ignoring advice.

A poll on Monday reported half of Britons said they would be unlikely to self-isolate if they had a negative rapid test after coming into contact with someone with coronavirus.

(With inputs from agencies)

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