Abattoir staff get NHS app exemption amid fears 'Pingdemic' could lead to FOOD ...

Abattoir staff get NHS app exemption amid fears 'Pingdemic' could lead to FOOD ...
Abattoir staff get NHS app exemption amid fears 'Pingdemic' could lead to FOOD ...

Self-isolation rules were in chaos last night after the meat industry claimed its workers had been excused from quarantining if they are ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app.

It came as the Ministry of Defence revealed 5,200 military personnel are off duty because they are self-isolating, leading MPs to warn the app could endanger national security. Some NHS trusts are so short-staffed they are letting double-jabbed doctors and nurses work if pinged.

Nearly 900,000 alerts telling people to quarantine were issued in the first week of this month after contact with a coronavirus case.

Ministers have said the lifting of restrictions on Monday – dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ – is likely to push daily infections to more than 100,000, which could force around half a million a day to self-isolate.

The chaos has forced hospitals to call off operations, factories to cancel shifts and some councils to tell residents bins will not be collected.  

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It comes as it was revealed how 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.  

Up to 1million people were asked to self-isolate last week, data suggests. But that figure could hit 5.6million by the end of the month, if cases spiral by 75 per cent every week (right), according to MailOnline analysis. Separate projections based on a growth rate of 40 per cent - similar to what Test and Trace reported last week - still says the number of people self-isolating could hit 3million a week. But the true figure will be much lower because many people who are told to self-isolate end up testing positive, and some people will be flagged down by both NHS Test and Trace and the app

Up to 1million people were asked to self-isolate last week, data suggests. But that figure could hit 5.6million by the end of the month, if cases spiral by 75 per cent every week (right), according to MailOnline analysis. Separate projections based on a growth rate of 40 per cent - similar to what Test and Trace reported last week - still says the number of people self-isolating could hit 3million a week. But the true figure will be much lower because many people who are told to self-isolate end up testing positive, and some people will be flagged down by both NHS Test and Trace and the app

Around 1.8million people were asked to self-isolate last week in England, data suggests. That includes 194,000 people who tested positive, 520,000 who were 'pinged' by the app, almost 340,000 who were contacted directly by Test and Trace, and 750,000 schoolchildren

Around 1.8million people were asked to self-isolate last week in England, data suggests. That includes 194,000 people who tested positive, 520,000 who were 'pinged' by the app, almost 340,000 who were contacted directly by Test and Trace, and 750,000 schoolchildren 

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

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

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Leading scientists join the revolution against the 'pingdemic'

By Eleanor Hayward and Shaun Wooller for the Daily Mail 

Scientists yesterday joined the revolt against the ‘pingdemic’ as research suggested half a million Britons are currently isolating for no reason.

Experts said there was ‘no evidence’ to support the draconian self-isolation policy that is grinding the economy to a standstill.

But scientists advising the Government defended the app, saying it was doing what it was intended to do. Professor Cath Noakes, of Leeds University, said the issue was the ‘really high prevalence of the virus’.

However, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggested that people should ignore alerts from the NHS Covid-19 app.

Last week 530,126 people in England and Wales were pinged and told to self-isolate for up to ten days after coming into contact with a Covid case. But just 6 per cent of those who are ‘pinged’ go on to develop the virus, according to a study by Oxford University. That would mean 498,318 of those alerted last week are unnecessarily staying at home, suggests the research published in the journal Nature.

Professor Calum Semple of Sage said yesterday it would be ‘entirely reasonable’ for those who are double-jabbed to ignore a ping. He said it would be ‘much more helpful’ for close contacts to get tested instead, adding: ‘The bureaucracy hasn’t caught up with the science.’ Meanwhile, Sir Jonathan Montgomery, a former chairman of the ethics board at NHS Test and Trace, told LBC the app should be used to ‘help people manage their risk’ rather than locking them up.

The self-isolation rules are due to be dropped for double-vaccinated people on August 16. But with infections up 67 per cent in the past week alone, the carnage caused by self-isolation rules will only get worse over the next month. Projections by the Adam Smith Institute show up to 3.5million a week could be forced to isolate by the time the rules are relaxed.

Overall some 7.91million have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace, while 3.33million have been ‘pinged’ by the app, according to the latest data.

But scientists have claimed it is doing more harm than good. Professor Allyson Pollock of Newcastle University pointed out that the effectiveness of the test and trace system has ‘never been properly evaluated’, adding: ‘There is no evidence it is reducing transmission, hospitalisations or deaths but we do know it is causing a lot of harm.’

The Government has never published data showing how many people ordered to isolate by the app go on to develop Covid-19.

Yesterday more evidence emerged of the damaging impact of isolation. One in four told to isolate by Test and Trace after contact with a Covid case have lost income, the Office for National Statistics found.

 

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Meanwhile, abattoirs and meat factories have warned they could be forced to shut down production lines, raising fears of shortages of some products on supermarket shelves.

Meat industry leaders who met officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday said they were told pinged staff can return to work if they take a test.

No 10 did not rule out extending the exemption to other industries amid warnings that rising infections could lead to shortages of some supermarket products.

The claimed exemption for the meat industry is likely to throw the system into chaos as other struggling sectors, such as car manufacturers, hospitality firms and retailers, demand the same rule change.

Nick Allen, of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), said: ‘The app very clearly says you should self-isolate but the advice we’ve now been given is when our staff get pinged, the first thing to do is get them tested. Officials pointed out to us that the pinging by the app is advisory.’

Responding to the BMPA’s comments, a Government spokesman said: ‘This is not accurate. We are in close contact with businesses, including the food industry, on this matter. Isolation is a crucial tool in helping to reduce the spread of the virus and it is vital that people continue to self-isolate when contacted by NHS Test and Trace.’

A spokesman for Boris Johnson said: ‘We are continuing to look at self-isolation requirements for NHS workers. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals industry by industry.

‘We keep looking at the scientific evidence and data and it continues to be the case that if you are asked to self-isolate, you should do so.’

Food and drink is the country’s biggest manufacturing sector.

Ian Wright, of the Food and Drink Federation, said: ‘The system has proved pretty robust under extreme pressure over the last 15 months. That should remain the case but the numbers are getting scary.’

Lord Bilimoria, president of the Confederation of British Industry, said: ‘We have got a really serious issue. You are opening up on the one hand and closing on the other.’

Tory grandee Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘It’s becoming a case of lockdown by another term.’

Ministry of Defence figures show 5,200 regular and reservist Armed Forces personnel – nearly 3 per cent of those available – were absent due to self-isolation over infection or as close contacts on July 1.

Tobias Ellwood, Tory chairman of the Commons defence committee, said national security could be endangered if the figure rises to 10 per cent, adding: ‘It’s time to urgently review the protocols.’

Amid severe NHS staff shortages due to self-isolation, some trusts are telling doctors and nurses to come to work after a test. Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust said it was taking a ‘pragmatic approach’.

Chris Hopson, of NHS Providers, said self-isolation had a significant impact on care and called for a solution ‘as a matter of urgency’.

Quarantine rules will be changed from August 16 to exempt the double-vaccinated, but ministers have refused to bring this forward. 

It comes as the 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. 

It comes as official figures revealed that as many as 5,200 military personnel were absent from duties because they were self-isolating under coronavirus rules, while a quarter of staff are yet to receive a vaccine.

Flu jabs for 35million to tackle lower immunity 

By Shaun Wooller for the Daily Mail 

The biggest flu vaccination programme in the UK’s history will start in September, with 35million eligible for a free jab.

All secondary school pupils will qualify for a vaccine for the first time in a bid to slow the spread and protect the NHS.

Officials fear a fierce flu season as masks and social distancing limited infections last year, leaving more people susceptible. A record 19million people took up a shot offer last winter out of 30million eligible.

This year, the NHS is preparing to deliver the flu vaccine alongside potential Covid booster shots. The flu jab will be available to children aged two and three, primary pupils and those in secondary years seven to 11. Babies over six months, adults under 50 in clinical risk groups, pregnant women and all over-50s will also qualify.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘With the nation getting closer to normal life, we must learn to live with Covid-19 alongside other viruses and we’re offering the free flu jab to millions more people to help keep them safe this winter.’ A report published yesterday by the Academy of Medical Sciences warned that as many as 60,000 people could die from flu this year because immunity levels are so low.

Government data yesterday showed first dose totals were 46,159,145, up 61,681 on the previous day. And there were 35,543,321 second doses, a rise of 201,893.

 

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The revelation led to increased calls on Friday for the Government to take 'urgent action' by changing quarantine rules as restrictions are relaxed in England and infections rise.

Meanwhile, Britain's daily infection toll breached 50,000 today for the first time since January. Anyone who tests positive is told to self-isolate and has their contacts traced. 

But because the Bluetooth phone app 'pings' all those who have been in close contact with positive cases, 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 lack 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.    

And the number of alerts sent out in relation to venues also more than doubled in seven days

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

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

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

No mask in sight: Spectators watch the action at Becketts Corner during the first practice session of the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone

No mask in sight: Spectators watch the action at Becketts Corner during the first practice session of the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone

Why it's NOT illegal to ignore being 'pinged'

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)

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.'

However, the instruction becomes legally enforceable as soon as someone who is pinged attempts to apply for the Government's isolation support payments. 

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?

People who have received a positive test must isolate for ten days after displaying symptoms or their test date if they do not have symptoms, while members of their household must isolate for 14 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. 

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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, however, 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, according to this website's projections. 

Up to 1million people were asked to self-isolate last week, data suggests.

But that figure could hit 5.6million by the end of the month, if cases spiral by 75 per cent every week. 

Thousands of people who are pinged also go on to become confirmed cases, meaning the total will be lower. And some people will be flagged down by both NHS Test and Trace and the app.

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.

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. 

Meanwhile, as many as 5,200 military personnel were absent from duties because they were self-isolating under coronavirus rules, while a quarter of staff are yet to receive a vaccine, official figures show. 

Ministers are planning to exempt the fully-vaccinated from quarantining over close contacts but will not introduce the change until August 16, around a month after most restrictions end. 

Ministry of Defence figures show 5,200 regular and reservist armed forces personnel were reported absent from work due to self-isolation over infection or as close contacts on July 1.

That is nearly 3 per cent of the 198,000 personnel available to the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The figures also showed that there was no record of around a quarter of personnel - 54,742 - having received a coronavirus vaccine as of July 5.

Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, warned that national security could be endangered if the figure continues to rise to 10%.

As many as 5,200 military personnel absent from duties due to self-isolation 

As many as 5,200 military personnel were absent from duties because they were self-isolating under coronavirus rules, while a quarter of staff are yet to receive a vaccine, official figures show.  

Ministry of Defence figures show 5,200 regular and reservist armed forces personnel were reported absent from work due to self-isolation over infection or as close contacts on July 1.

That is nearly 3% of the 198,000 personnel available to the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The figures also showed that there was no record of around a quarter of personnel - 54,742 - having received a coronavirus vaccine as of July 5.

Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, warned that national security could be endangered if the figure continues to rise to 10%.

"When the scale of mass isolation caused by Covid-19 app starts hitting the operational effectiveness of our armed forces it's time to urgently review the protocols," he told the PA news agency.

"Even with rising infections it's clear the app's sensitivity could trigger a national security risk if a disproportionate scale of manpower is forced to isolate."

Layla Moran, the Lib Dem MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, urged the Government to take "urgent action" to prevent a further hike in isolation numbers.

"The Government's failure to keep Covid cases under control is now threatening the readiness of our armed forces," she said.

"Ministers must explain what they are doing to address the risks posed by their road map to our national security."

Labour's shadow defence minister Stephen Morgan added: "These concerning figures demonstrate that ministers are falling short of their solemn duty to protect our serving personnel, who continue to perform vital work at home and abroad.

"The Government must immediately set out a clear and credible plan to step up vaccinations for our service personnel, and particularly those who are on deployment."

The figures were released by defence minister Baroness Goldie as a written answer to a question from Crossbench peer Baroness Masham.

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'When the scale of mass isolation caused by Covid-19 app starts hitting the operational effectiveness of our armed forces it's time to urgently review the protocols,' he told the PA news agency.

'Even with rising infections it's clear the app's sensitivity could trigger a national security risk if a disproportionate scale of manpower is forced to isolate.'

Layla Moran, the Lib Dem MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, urged the Government to take 'urgent action' to prevent a further hike in isolation numbers.

'The Government's failure to keep Covid cases under control is now threatening the readiness of our armed forces,' she said.

'Ministers must explain what they are doing to address the risks posed by their road map to our national security.'

Labour's shadow defence minister Stephen Morgan added: 'These concerning figures demonstrate that ministers are falling short of their solemn duty to protect our serving personnel, who continue to perform vital work at home and abroad.

'The Government must immediately set out a clear and credible plan to step up vaccinations for our service personnel, and particularly those who are on deployment.'

The figures were released by defence minister Baroness Goldie as a written answer to a question from Crossbench peer Baroness Masham.

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

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