'Don't turn off Covid test and trace app' plea

We need a robust, locally-led test and trace system

People have been urged not to switch off the test and trace app. - Credit: Archant

People have been urged not to turn off their Covid NHS Test and Trace app, amid concerns among businesses there could be staff shortages due to a 'pingdemic'.

Today (Monday, July 19) signalled the lifting of the remaining coronavirus restrictions on what has been dubbed 'Freedom Day'.

But, with rising cases nationally and in Norfolk, the return of workers to offices has prompted concerns more people could be pinged by the NHS Test and Trace app - meaning they have to self-isolate.

The self-isolation requirement is to be abolished for contacts of positive cases for under 18s and for double vaccinated adults - but not until August 16.

The government is coming under pressure from businesses and unions to change the sensitivity of the app, while there are concerns some people have turned it off.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

But Louise Smith, director of public health at Norfolk County Council, urged people not to switch off the app and for businesses to keep using check-in.

She said: "Our experience throughout this pandemic has been that we have much smaller number of cases and issues that are much easier to deal with where businesses are taking all of the steps that they can.

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"So, whilst I'm massively sympathetic with businesses and understand it is really difficult when your business continuity is affected because your staff are being asked to self-isolate, my strong, strong advice, would be that your incident will be resolved far more quickly if the majority of your staff are well and are self-isolating as contacts, rather than becoming cases themselves."

She said in previous waves, there had been some cases in Norfolk, where the first public health officers knew of a problem was when ill people turned up in hospital - and it was better to be working with companies before that happened.

Dr Smith said: "While I understand it's really inconvenient being asked to self-isolate, my personal view is please keep using the app."

The council last week launched its IChoose campaign, urging people to keep taking action, such as wearing masks indoors and washing hands, amid 225 daily cases of Covid-19 in Norfolk.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating after being pinged by the app, following a meeting with health secretary Sajid Javid, who has tested positive for Covid-19.

He and chancellor Rishi Sunak - who also met Mr Javid on Friday - initially tried to get round the requirement to quarantine by saying they would join a workplace testing scheme.

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