James Forsyth

NHS app tweaked to slow pingdemic

NHS app tweaked to slow pingdemic
(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
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Mobility data suggests that public behaviour hasn’t changed much since 19 July, so-called ‘freedom day’. One suspects that part of the reason for this is fear of being ‘pinged’.

Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary and chair of the Commons health committee, a fortnight ago called for the double vaccinated to be excused from self-isolation if pinged (this change is only due to happen from the 16 August). Hunt warned that without that, ‘social consent’ for the app might be lost as so many people are forced into isolation. Other Tory MPs have privately argued that the app should be made less sensitive.

Today, the government has announced that the app will be tweaked so that fewer contacts will be told to isolate. This will be done by only looking at the last two days of contacts for asymptomatic people who test positive, rather than the previous five days. This should make the app less disruptive.

The government is keen to stress that this is all being done on the basis of public health advice and that this won’t reduce the number of ‘high risk’ contacts being told to isolate. But it is hard not to see this as an attempt to persuade people to keep using the app by reassuring them that they will only be told to isolate if they were in contact with someone when they were particularly likely to be infectious.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator.

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