England could be economically paralysed within weeks without action to halt the Covid app 'pingdemic' forcing hundreds of thousands of workers to stay at home.
Analysis by MailOnline suggests that in a worst-case scenario around six million adults could be in isolation by the end of the month.
Ministers were warned that factories could be forced to start closing today and consumers could see shortages of some foods because there are not enough staff to carry out key functions amid skyrocketing coronavirus infection rates.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data released this morning estimated the number of people infected with the virus in the week ending July 10 was 577,700, up 73.5 per cent in just a week.
One in 95 people in England had Covid last week according to the official data based on thousands of swab tests.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
But because the Bluetooth phone app 'pings' all those who have been in close contact with them, the number of people self-isolating at home at any one time is far higher.
Unlike those people contacted by phone, it is not a legal requirement to self-isolate after being pinged by the app. But Downing Street today made it clear it expects people to do so.
It raises the prospect of the economy grinding to a halt due to a chronic last of available workers, even after the lockdown is supposed to have ended on Monday.
Business leaders and trade unionists from across all sector of the economy lined up to warn the Government that a major rethink is needed today, because the current situation is not sustainable. A fifth of all private sector workers are currently having to self-isolate, according to industrial analysis.
Meat workers are in talks with the government about emergency exemptions for their workers who are pinged by the app – but as of this afternoon no deal had been announced.
There were also a series of warning from NHS representatives who warned that the pingdemic is taking a toll on medical services across the country - with one trust asking staff to postpone their holidays.
But ministers and Downing Street rebuffed them, insisting the app was vital and would not be removed until the middle of next month.
Solicitor General Minister Lucy Frazer admitted the Government recognises the 'significant impact' it is having, but said it remained an 'important tool' in the fight against Covid-19.
Downing Street also declined to confirm reports that workers in vital industries like food preparation and butchery could get exemptions planned for NHS workers.
NHS England data showed a record 520,000 alerts were sent by the app last week, telling people they had been in close contact with someone who tested positive
And the number of alerts sent out in relation to venues also more than doubled in seven days
Four fifths of NHS hospitals in England are now seeing a spike in Covid patients being admitted, official data has shown as the third wave of the pandemic continues to take its toll ahead of 'Freedom Day' on Monday
In a more positive sign, SAGE today estimated England's R rate is between 1.2 and 1.4, down from last week's figure of between 1.2 and 1.5
MailOnline has looked into the legal guidance behind whether someone has to self-isolate if they are Covid positive, or told to by the app or Test and Trace.
Do I have to self-isolate if I get 'pinged' by the app?
App users who are 'pinged' after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive are not obliged to stay at home.
They are kept anonymous through the app, meaning authorities are unable to track them down if they have been told to quarantine.
Professor Lilian Edwards, a top lawyer who advised the Government on the app, said today people do not have to follow notifications from the software.
'I think what's getting lost in the traffic here is that you are not breaking the law if you do not self-isolate having been pinged by the app,' she told the BBC's World at One.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 says people alerted by the app do not have to self-isolate (bolded in red)
'You are only breaking the law if you are rung up by a manual contact tracer.
'Therefore, there is room there for discretion both from managers in the workplace and from workers as to whether they think they are a risk.'
Do I have to self-isolate if test and trace contacts me?
People contacted by NHS Test and Trace workers do have to self-isolate under regulations brought in last autumn to tackle coronavirus or face hefty fines.
That rule won't be dropped for fully vaccinated adults until August 16.
Britons who are contacted by test and trace must self-isolate at home for ten days. They must isolate for ten days regardless of whether they have symptoms or get a negative test.
People they live with will also be required to self-isolate for ten days.
Do I have to self-isolate if I test positive?
Official rules say someone who has tested positive for the virus must self-isolate for ten days from the onset of symptoms.
Anyone they live with must also self-isolate for ten days.
Britons found breaking these rules could face a fine of £1,000 for the first offence.
This rises to £10,000 for people who repeatedly refuse to self-isolate after testing positive.
It came as:One in 95 in England had Covid last week, official data has shown amid warnings from ministers that the country will face another lockdown the wave doesn't stop spiralling soon; Official figures released today show the contact-tracing app sent out 520,000 self-isolation alerts last week; Councils raised concerns over bin collections after Leeds, Bristol and Rochdale were forced to leave resident's rubbish on the curbside after the app forced workers to stay at home; Official figures revealed that as few as 30 per cent of adults have been double-jabbed in inner cities; Ministers were urged to get a grip on the Covid travel test fiasco that has led to lengthy delays and appalling service.
The MailOnline analysis is based on the 75 per cent growth rate in confirmed Covid cases continuing for the next three weeks.
Other surveillance measures say the outbreak is growing slower, including one symptom-tracking app that believes the outbreak has already peaked.
The rise in positive cases is mirrored with a similar increase in the number of people having to isolate after being pinged as a close associate.
Some people who are confirmed cases are also being pinged, meaning the total could be lower.
In addition, if enough people self-isolate, the rate of infection could drop, scientists say.
A lower estimate by the Adam Smith Institute projects a figure of around 2million people, not including children.
The app's maker last night told the Financial Times it was functioning as it should.
Wolfgang Emmerich, chief executive of Swiss firm Zühlke UK said it was 'doing exactly what we designed it to do', and increased notifications were 'a reflection of the increases in infection numbers rather than any change in the app'.
Nissan was among businesses that have flagged serious issues, after around 900 workers at its flagship plant in Sunderland were forced to isolate after they were pinged by the app.
Last night Unite's Steve Bush told Newsnight: 'I believe we're hours not days or weeks away from our first temporary closure of sites.'
And the Meat Processors Association chief executive said abattoirs would have to 'rationalise' product lines, stopping those requiring the most butchery, in order to keep food on shelves.
Nick Allen told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'We were struggling with skilled labour anyway, and now on top of this you have got them being pinged and told to stay at home for 10 days.
'So it's quite a critical point and it is not really a numbers game. It's if you get critical people in the production line pinged and having to stay at home that can cause as much of a problem as sheer numbers.'
The Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine issued a joint call to exempt double-jabbed NHS staff from isolation over close contacts.
Sir Jonathan Montgomery, the former chair of the ethics advisory board for the NHS Test and Trace app, said while he would not change the function of being 'pinged' by the app the 'consequences' needed to be updated.
But Ms Frazer said firms would have to wait until August 16 for the isolation requirement to go.
'It (the app) is an important tool because it is important that you do isolate if you do come into contact (with a positive case), but I know this is something the Government is looking at,' she told Sky News.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data — based on random swab testing of thousands of people — the number of people infected with the virus in the week ending July 10 was 577,7000, up 73.5 per cent in a week
'In addition to the changes in mid-August, the Government is also carrying out a number of pilots to see whether instead of isolating when you get pinged, you could take a test.
'The Government is looking at this very carefully, recognising the significant impact this is having on businesses.'
No 10 said those contacted by the NHS Covid app to self-isolate should follow the guidance, amid calls from some employers for 'pinged' staff who test negative to be allowed to continue to go to work.
Asked about employers calling for those testing negative to break their self-isolation, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: 'We are asking people who are contacted by the app to continue to isolate, that's what we've asked people to do since the app was launched.
'The reason for that is not just to protect themselves but also to try and break the chain of transmission to other people that they may come into contact with.'
On the rise in cases of people being sent alerts by the app, the No 10 official said: 'The Prime Minister spoke about the fact that we are seeing case numbers increase, and obviously as a result you would expect to see the numbers of people being notified to self-isolate increase also.'
The spokesman said he would 'not speculate' on whether the Government had predictions for how many people could be asked to quarantine at the peak of the current wave of infections.
It came as health bosses in Sunderland asked staff to postpone holidays as the trust came 'under extreme pressure' due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
Staff at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust - dealing with one of the highest infection rates in the country - are seeing hospital cases doubling week-on-week.
In an internal note to staff earlier this week, bosses said there were 80 Covid-19 patients receiving hospital treatment compared with just two exactly a month before.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said the hospital trusts the organisation represents are increasingly concerned over dealing with the care backlog 'with large numbers of staff unable to work'.
'We know that national leaders are working hard to find a solution to this problem. The key is that this solution is delivered as a matter of urgency,' he added.
Britain will 'of course' face a new lockdown if Covid's third wave hits 'unacceptable' levels, a minister warned today after Chris Whitty admitted the country may have to face new restrictions within weeks.
Solicitor General Lucy Frazer suggested it was the right time to open up because of the vaccination drive — which has reached 90 per cent of Britons.
But with cases continuing to soar, hospital admissions tracking above some of SAGE's worst-case projections, and deaths having hit a four-month high, she warned that No10 may be left with no choice but to consider reimposing tough restrictions.
Ms Frazer said: 'Of course, if we get into a situation where it is unacceptable and we do need to put back further restrictions, then that of course is something the Government will look at.'
England's chief medical officer last night cautioned the UK could still 'get into trouble again surprisingly fast' and hospitals may face 'scary numbers' within a matter of weeks.
Making it clear the country was not on an irreversible path to freedom despite No10 pushing ahead with step four of the roadmap to normality on Monday, Professor Chris Whitty said: 'We are not by any means out of the woods yet.'
Boris Johnson has already dropped all mention of the final unlocking being 'irreversible'. The Prime Minister has resorted to caution, calling on people not to 'go wild' and immediately rush to take advantage of the final easing — which includes lifting work-at-home orders and reopening nightclubs.
Cases have spiralled over the past few weeks, with scientists blaming the easing of restrictions and young men gathering to watch England's Euro 2020 campaign for the uptick.
Vaccines have already saved thousands of lives since the third wave began, drastically slashing the proportion of infected patients who are left seriously ill. But jabs aren't perfect, and admissions have been tracking upwards for a fortnight.
Almost 560 infected patients are being admitted to NHS wards each day now, compared to fewer than 100 before the Indian Delta variant took off in mid-May. The current trend in figures is above some of the gloomiest estimates from SAGE, who warned hospitalisations could breach 4,000 a day in August.
It comes after health chiefs yesterday posted another 63 deaths, in the highest daily rise since March, and 48,553 cases.
The NHS Test and Trace app is 'pinging' neighbours through walls if their phones are in close proximity to each other, it was claimed last night.
Neighbours are being forced into quarantine for ten days despite never coming into contact with a positive case of the virus because the bluetooth signal used by the app is known to be strong enough to penetrate walls.
This means the technology will occasionally send an order to quarantine to people because their next-door neighbour – with whom they share a wall – may have tested positive, sources told The Telegraph.
Sources have said issues concerning the sensitivity of the app were raised when it was initially created and are now in the process of being tweaked.
A source told the Daily Telegraph: 'We are hearing of anecdotal cases and we do know that it is possible for the signal to travel through walls, although it is weakened.'
Dr Fiona Sampson, a senior research fellow in emergency and urgent care at the University of Sheffield, told The Daily Telegraph: 'My partner got pinged and rang 111 to find out when the contact was. However, he hadn't left the house on the day of the alleged contact.
'We later realised he had been working with his phone on the table, less than two metres away from our neighbour.'
Meanwhile Jason Delaney, 39, a bar owner from Alton, Hampshire, told the newspaper he too was informed he had come into contact with a Covid case despite not having met with anyone on the day in question.
NHS guidance says the app's bluetooth signal is reduced through walls but not blocked entirely, with people on the other side 'less likely' to receive an alert.
A Government spokesman said the number of people 'pinged' through walls was not large enough to be considered 'an issue', adding: 'But we wouldn't say that this never happens.'
In the private sector, Stephen Phipson, chief executive of manufacturing organisation Make UK, said: 'This is a problem that has escalated significantly over the last week with more and more companies being affected by isolation, with not just an impact on production but a hit to actual shipments of goods going overseas.
'This is an increasingly serious issue affecting companies of all sizes and sectors. There is now an urgent priority for Government to bring forward the August date given the likely impact of restrictions being lifted next week.'
Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) general secretary Mick Lynch warned that Monday 'will see a surge in workers pinged with a self-isolation instruction next week'.
'Even at this late stage, the Government, the train operators and the bus companies should issue a clear, legally backed instruction that levels up the rest of the UK to the safety standards that will remain in force in Wales and Scotland,' he added.
Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: 'Staff shortages will only get worse unless people are kept safe at work.
'The Government urgently needs to toughen its confusing and inadequate back-to-work safety guidance - starting with making masks a legal requirement on public transport and in shops.
'If we are to stop Covid-19 ripping through workplaces, workers must be able to afford to self-isolate. Government must urgently raise sick pay to the level of the real living wage and make sure everyone can get it.'
Business leaders have warned the 'pingdemic' was causing chaos for families, firms and hospitals and demanded changes on the NHS Covid-19 app to avoid a 'self-inflicted economic wound'.
NHS chiefs have also warned the system was making it 'increasingly difficult' to deliver routine care and said hospitals were now scrapping operations because so many workers were having to self isolate.
Nearly 900,000 alerts telling people to quarantine were issued in the first week of this month following contact with a coronavirus victim.
But rising numbers of people being forced into self-isolation has led unions to warn that factories across the country are on the 'verge of shutting' down.
It came as it was revealed a terrified 12-year-old girl hid behind her mother – afraid she was going to be arrested – when police turned up in numbers at her home to check that she was self-isolating.
Charlotte Crook had been at home following the rules after a positive coronavirus test and her shocked mother Kathryn yesterday branded the police response 'overkill'.
Officers came to her home in what the family said was a riot van, prompting a 'meltdown' from the bewildered schoolgirl.
Throughout the pandemic, police have faced accusations of heavy-handedness in enforcing Covid restrictions.
Up to 900 workers at car giant Nissan's flagship plant in Sunderland are being made to self-isolate after they were pinged by the app, it was claimed today.
And the National Care Association said care homes had 'real staffing issues' because of the app.
Bin rounds were also missed this week in Sutton Coldfield because of outbreaks of Covid and some hospital trusts have had up to 500 staff isolating at a time, forcing them to close beds and cancel operations.
Meanwhile the chief executive of Rolls-Royce, Torsten Muller-Otvos, said the car maker was on the 'edge of a critical situation' and a complete shutdown could not be ruled out.
He told The Daily Telegraph: 'Cases have gone through the roof and it is causing havoc.'
Elsewhere, Chris Hopson, of NHS Providers, said: 'Trust leaders continue to share serious concerns about rising levels of staff isolation, which are now significantly impacting on their ability to deliver care.'
This week, health secretary Sajid Javid warned daily Covid infections were likely to top 100,000 after restrictions are lifted on Monday. That could force around half a million a day to self-isolate.
Separate data from Test and Trace showed infections surged by 43 per cent last week after another 194,005 people tested positive for the virus. And Britain today recorded another 48,553 Covid cases in the biggest daily surge since January.
People told to isolate by the app are under no legal requirement to do so because their identity is not tracked by the software.
But fears have been raised that the software could cripple the nation's already fragile economy this summer when restrictions are completely lifted.
Businesses demanding a re-think of the rules have warned supermarket shelves may be left empty if tens of thousands of workers are told they must self-isolate in the coming weeks.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: 'No one is advocating for Covid controls to go out the window and Unite's number one priority remain the health and safety of our members.
'But the reports Unite is receiving from our members and their employers are extremely worrying.
'It is not an exaggeration to say factories are on the verge of shutting and that at some sites hundreds of staff are off work.'
And councils have raised concerns over bin collections after Leeds, Bristol and Rochdale were forced to leave resident's rubbish on the curbside after the app forced workers to stay at home.
Liverpool Council yesterday confirmed bin collection would be cancelled for two weeks in parts of the city.
Cabinet member for neighbourhoods Abdul Qadir said: 'Unfortunately due to Covid guidelines on isolation our refuse service team is severely depleted, and we need to prioritise our waste collections.
'Our current programme is