NHS app still an ‘important tool’, claims Government despite pingdemic chaos

The country is on the cusp of a pingdemic – Getty

The Government has insisted the NHS Covid app is an “important tool”, despite growing chaos and fears that millions of people could be forced to isolate in the coming days.

This morning The Telegraph revealed that some people are being forced to self-isolate for 10 days despite never having come into face-to-face contact with a positive Covid case. According to sources close to the Test and Trace app team, the Bluetooth signal used is known to be strong enough to penetrate walls.

Asked about this story Lucy Frazer, the solicitor general, defended the app but said work was underway to find alternatives.

She told Times Radio: “It’s really important that we have a tool that enables you to self isolate if you come into contact with other people… the Government is looking at other things as well – the rules being lifted for those who have been double vaccinated and a number of pilots to see whether it would work instead of having to self isolate you could take a test instead.” .

During an interview with Sky News, the minister did not dispute that millions would be isolating by the end of the month, with half a million pinged last week, but stressed that the Government was “looking at this very carefully, recognising the impact it is having on business.”

Sir Jonathan Montgomery, former chair of the ethics advisory board for the NHS Test and Trace app, said he would not change the function of being “pinged” by the app but the need to isolate as a result.

He told LBC the app had been designed before widespread testing or vaccinations, adding: “”So, I wouldn’t be changing the pinging but I would be changing the consequences of being pinged.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

07:06 AM

Isolation after being pinged ‘should not be yes or no think’, says NHS app ethics boss

Being “pinged” should be a tool used to “help us manage the risk” rather than always being required to self-isolate, the former chair of the ethics advisory board for the NHS Test and Trace app.

Sir Jonathan Montgomery, the professor of healthcare law at University College London, noted that someone’s vaccination status would have a bearing on how infectious they might be, and that isolation should not be “a yes or no thing”.

“If I have been pinged and I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t infected and I’m taking lateral flow tests, I’m still not going to go and see an elderly relative who is vulnerable or someone who is having cancer care, because I just don’t want to take that risk,” he told LBC.

“But I would like to be able to go to work where I can take other precautions, I can be masked, I can wash my hands, because that’s managing the risk… It shouldn’t become a yes or no thing, you are either locked up in home or you are out and about.”

07:02 AM

Change ‘consequences of being pinged’, says ethics advisory chair

The NHS Covid app should not be ditched but the requirement to isolate after being ‘pinged’ should be reconsidered, the former chair of the ethics advisory board which oversaw it has said.

Sir Jonathan Montgomery, the professor of healthcare law at University College London, told LBC: “We need to think about the consequences of being pinged.

“When the app was designed, we didn’t have the ability to reliable home test, we didn’t have very many people jabbed, and the big worrying thing about this virus is that you can pass it on before you know you have it.

“So, I wouldn’t be changing the pinging but I would be changing the consequences of being pinged.”

06:58 AM

Minister admits restrictions could be reimposed amid concerns that “matters could escalate”

Restrictions could be reimposed, amid fears that “matters could escalate”, a minister has said.

Lucy Frazer, the solicitor general, told Sky News the Government was still going ahead with unlocking on July 19, saying it was “the right time”, despite Chris Whitty’s warning that restrictions might have to be reimposed as early as September.

England’s chief medical officer said Boris Johnson could have to bring back restrictions in “five, six, seven eight weeks’ time”, with cases doubling about every three weeks and could reach “quite scary numbers”.

Ms Frazer told Sky News: “Matters could escalate, that is true, but he also said let’s look at where we have come from, and we are not in the same place as when restrictions first went in….

“If we get into a situation where things get unacceptable and need to put restrictions back, that of course is something we will look at.”

06:46 AM

Rishi Sunak urged to adjust pensions triple lock formula

Rishi Sunak has been urged to tweak a key metric used for the pensions triple lock under a proposal that could see pensioners lose out on £200 a year.

The Chancellor faces a difficult decision over uprating the state pension this autumn, with concerns that the Covid pandemic has skewed economic data in a way that could force an “artificial” pension spike under the terms of the triple lock.

The mechanism, a 2019 Tory party manifesto pledge, means the state pension must rise each year by whichever is the highest of 2.5 per cent, inflation or average earnings growth.

The latest wage growth data, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday, suggested earnings have increased by 6.6 per cent. However, the ONS also published a new metric for “underlying” earnings data, which stripped out the abnormal effects of the pandemic.

06:45 AM

Good Morning

The nation appears to be on the cusp of a ‘pingdemic’, with fears growing that millions of people could be forced to isolate – some of whom haven’t actually come into contact with positive cases.

Our exclusive story this morning is causing quite a kerfuffle, as we reveal neighbours have been pinged through the wall.

Here is today’s front page.