People exit Bank underground station during morning rush hour in London, Britain, July 29 2021. Picture: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS
People exit Bank underground station during morning rush hour in London, Britain, July 29 2021. Picture: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS

The UK government has changed the National Health Service’s (NHS) Covid-19 mobile phone app so that fewer people will be told to self-isolate, seeking to limit disruption to industry from the so-called pingdemic.

Under the changes that took effect on Monday, only those who come into contact with an infected person within two days before the positive test will be asked to self-isolate, rather than within five days previously. The changes won’t affect the sensitivity of the app or change the risk threshold.

The announcement from the department of health comes after a surge in “pings” caused havoc for British food producers, retailers and pubs who warned supply chains were nearing the breaking point. The government is encouraging people to continue using the app after surveys suggested that many may have deleted it in recent weeks to avoid being alerted.

“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,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement. “This update to the app will help ensure that we are striking the right balance.”

According to the government, new data show that the app helped avoid more than 50,000 cases in the first three weeks of July, and prevented 1,600 hospital admissions.

Starting August 16, fully vaccinated contacts will be exempted from isolation and encouraged to take a PCR test.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com 

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