What was UK’s Pingdemic chaos all about?

Summary

  • PM Boris Johnson's Freedom Day was marred as NHS app advised many people to self-isolate due to surge in cases.
  • Due to NHS app recommendations, many businesses are facing staff shortage.

Many businesses in the UK on Monday faced confusion after s a large number of employees are being asked to self-isolate after they got a ping from the NHS Covid-19 app in the wake of surge in Covid-19 cases. This has prompted many to temporary close their operations due to staff shortage. The confusion started after two ministers said that staff could go to work even if they get a ping from the NHS officials advising them to self-isolate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s who had declared Monday as the Freedom Day, which ended year-long Covid-19 lockdown restriction, was marred, as cases are surging, and many businesses are facing staff shortage due to the NHS notification of self-isolation for 10 days.

On his part, PM Johnson said most people in the UK are now vaccinated, where around 87% of the adult population has got one vaccination dose, and over 68% have had got both the doses. However, experts have condemned Johnson’s move to reopen as the situation could worsen as social distancing rules have been scrapped. But if the vaccines prove effective in reducing cases, Johnson’s decision could offer a path out of the worst public health crisis in decades. If not, more restrictions could be implemented in the near future.

What is the pingdemic?

The word was coined from ping and pandemic, which referred to the notifications or pings sent by the NHS Covid-19 app advising self-isolation for a set amount of time. According to news reports, the number of such pings have gone up in the past few weeks as the number of new variant cases have risen sharply, leading to closures affecting operations of some major industries.

Also read: Spike in Covid cases: Which sectors are likely to get impacted most?

Most have been pinged to isolate for 10 days, though this can be longer if the person goes on to develop symptoms themselves.

Johnson’s big day was ruined by “pingdemic chaos” as NHS sources reported that more than 520,000 exposure notifications were sent out in the week to 7 July, a 46% rise from the previous week and highest till date. On Friday, the UK recorded 51,870 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily figure in last six months.  

This has resulted in staff shortage and disruption in industries where there is no choice to work from home, such as supermarkets and transport networks. Already, pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, and factories are reporting staff shortages.

Johnson has been warned that the economic recovery could be hampered as millions could be pinged by the NHS app in the next few weeks with cases expected to hit around 100,000 a day.

On Friday, Johnson’s spokesman said that the app was working as it is designed to do and there are no plans to change its sensitivity.

The UK has seventh highest death count in the world with around 128,708 deaths. It is being predicted that the numbers may surge even more than the second wave of the coronavirus cases earlier this year.  

Staff Crunch

The staff absence increased by 50% last week and the trends are going north affecting supply chains and logistics network.

On Sunday, rail passengers in England have been warned of delay due to shortages of staff as too many drivers were asked to self-isolate. Commuters were advised not to travel on specific routes, such as Sheffield, Doncaster, Lincoln and York because of the unscheduled delays.

On Saturday, the Metropolitan line on the Tube in London was entirely closed, while other lines faced delay due to shortage of drivers.

Garages are forced to make mass cancellations as mechanics were being forced to isolate because of which drivers are being warned of a potential MOT backlog.

Mark & Spencer senior staff said that one in five their supermarket staff are notified to stay in self-isolation as a result they have to reduce store hours due to shortage of staffs.

Several staff members at the Royal Mail in Peterborough were also pinged suggesting self-isolation, prompting concerns that delivery and postal services in the city would be disrupted.   

Carmakers Rolls-Royce and Nissan also reported that their manufacturing plants faced major disruption as up to 900 employees, almost 15% of the workforce, were advised to self-isolate after a positive test. 

The Duke of Cumberland pub also announced that they had to close for a few days as most of its staff has been notified for self-isolation, even though past few week they tried to keep the operations running with reduced staffs.

The Hospitality sector of UK is already struggling with staff crunch. and it is reported that 1 in 5 workers are reportedly isolating.

On Sunday, Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak announced that they would not be self-isolating after they came in contact with Sajid Javid, who has tested positive, this lead to several chaos and criticism.

Within three hours, they reversed the isolation decision, after facing several criticisms from MPs and health experts.

Changing rules

The rules for self-isolation are set to change from 16 August. From that day, people who have taken all the doses of vaccine will not have to self-isolate even if they come into contact with a person who has tested positive.

Instead, people will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace team and will be advised to take a PCR test. If that test comes positive, then they must isolate.

Regardless of vaccination status, if a person tests positive, he has to isolate for 10 days.

However, the UK government has demanded to bring this date forward for those who are fully vaccinated.


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