By Laura Harman
The phrase ‘pingdemic’ has been trending a lot in recent days and refers to the new wave of issues the UK is experiencing due to the Pandemic.
The NHS launched a Track and Trace app that allows users in the UK to quickly find out if they have been in contact with another person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
As of 19th July, restrictions have been almost completely lifted in the UK and life has been returning to normal with nightclubs and bars reopening and face masks becoming optional in various indoor spaces.
The easing of restrictions has led to an increase in people getting ‘pinged’ by the NHS Track and Trace app and being told to self-isolate. This has even happened to high-profile people such as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, and the Duchess of Cambridge who isolated after coming into contact with someone with COVID-19.
Now, the 'pingdemic' is a term that refers to the high number of people in the UK who have been 'pinged' by the NHS app and told to self-isolate, which has caused a number of issues in the UK.
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Why is the UK facing a 'pingdemic'?
The UK is currently suffering from a lot of issues because of the large number of people who have been told to self-isolate.
Despite having no symptoms, people who have been told to go into isolation by the app are unable to go to work and must stay at home.
Due to the nature of the app and the location tracking element of the device, this means that whole teams of employees are unable to go to work and must self-isolate.
This has had a big impact on supermarkets, bars, and restaurants, many of which have been forced to close because their whole staff has been told to isolate.
The Managing Director of the supermarket Iceland, Richard Walker, told the Independent that the NHS Track and Trace app is "broken and disruptive."
He said, "We are in the unprecedented position of having to close stores due to staff absences—not because of Covid-19, but because of a broken and disruptive Track and Trace app.
"Staff absences rose by 50% last week and the trend is sharp and quick, not just affecting our own colleagues but those throughout our supply chains and logistics networks."
"We urgently need an overhaul of the rules around the Test and Trace app, ideally switching to a 'Test and Release' model which would come as a huge relief to employers, employees, and customers and support the wider efforts to strengthen the economy."
Can you delete the NHS Track and Trace app?
Yes, the NHS privacy statement says that the app is not legally binding and can be deleted by users at any time.
“You can delete the app at any time. This will also delete all data stored on the app. If you choose to delete the app, you will no longer receive exposure alerts and notifications."
"These alerts let you know if you are at risk of infection of coronavirus. The app works in addition to the regular contact tracing that is already taking place throughout England and Wales,” said the NHS in a frequently asked questions leaflet.
When will the rules about self isolating change?
Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that from the 16th August, the self-isolation rules will change in the UK.
This means that if you are pinged by the NHS Track and Trace App after the 16th of August and are fully vaccinated—for at least 14 days—you will be advised to take a PCR test to avoid isolation.
If the PCR test is positive, you will need to isolate but if it is negative then you can carry on as normal.
This will also apply to under 18s, meaning that if a child tests positive, the whole class will not need to isolate.
People are calling for the government to bring this date forward, but no decisions have been made to do so just yet.
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