Up to A FIFTH of Britain's workforce is told to self isolate by app

The businesses being brought to their knees by the ‘pingdemic’: Four hundred thousand hospitality workers are being kept at home by app, at least 10% of meat workers and 6% of police officers are off

  • Business groups and unions issue major warning over escalation of ‘pingdemic’ 
  • Nearly 900,000 alerts telling people to stay at home issued in first week of July
  • Chaos for families and firms prompts business leaders to demand app changes 
  • 900 Nissan staff in Sunderland have been forced to isolate after being pinged

Up to a fifth of workers in companies are having to self-isolate after receiving a notification from the NHS Covid app, threatening cuts in production of goods.

Companies are being hit by huge staff shortages, with UKHospitality reporting 20 per cent of staff in its industry have been pinged – equating to 400,000 employees. 

Concerned business groups and unions warned today that the so-called ‘pingdemic’ has escalated in recent days, leading to pleas for the Government to step in.

Nearly 900,000 alerts telling people to stay at home were issued in the first week of this month following contact with a coronavirus victim. Some 1.6million people are now self-isolating, once children and those who actually have Covid are factored in. 

The is causing chaos for families and firms, prompting business leaders to demand changes on the NHS Covid-19 app to avoid a ‘self-inflicted economic wound’. 

Coronavirus cases grew by 74 per cent in England last week according to the Office for National Statistics, with nearly 580,000 people infected on any given day. 

Analysis by MailOnline suggests that in a worst-case scenario around six million adults could be in isolation by the end of the month, including those being pinged. 

One in 95 people in England had Covid last week according to the ONS data based on swab tests. But because the 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.

Nissan is among the businesses that have flagged serious issues, after around 900 workers at its flagship plant in Sunderland were forced to isolate after being pinged. 

And the Meat Processors Association said abattoirs will have to ‘rationalise’ product lines, stopping those requiring the most butchery, in order to keep food on shelves. 

A spokesman for Young’s pubs told MailOnline it has a workforce of 5,000 and nearly 10 per cent were pinged this week – a similar figure to the previous week. He added that PCR test results thereafter showed 97 per cent of them were negative for Covid. 

Online fashion retailer Asos has also revealed its staffing levels are suffering with ‘a lot of test and trace pinging’ at its London head office and Barnsley distribution hub.

Chief executive Nick Beighton told the Guardian: ‘It is very frustrating for staff and for us. Even people who have been double jabbed are having to self-isolate.’

The National Police Chiefs’ Council told MailOnline its total current absence rate is at 6 per cent, which includes those in self-isolation who cannot work from home. 

The Unite union said some sites in the automotive industry have hundreds of staff off work at the moment, with app pings causing ‘havoc’ on UK production lines. 

Downing Street has insisted the app is working as it was ‘designed’, and rejected mounting calls to act to prevent a surge in workers being forced into self-isolation. 

A message to self-isolate with one day of required isolation remaining is displayed on the NHS coronavirus contact tracing app on a mobile phone in East London yesterday

UKHospitality estimates one in five hospitality staff are currently having to self-isolate after being pinged by the Covid app. Pictured: A worker wears a mask at a pub in London’s Mayfair

There are calls to bring forward the August 16 date where the fully vaccinated will not have to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone with Covid-19.

The number of people notified by the app in England and Wales recently passed 500,000 in a single week.

Changes to sensitive  Covid-19 app delayed 

Plans to make the NHS Covid-19 app less sensitive so fewer people get pinged have been delayed as concerns mount over rising infection rates.

The change may not be introduced until mid-August when people who have had two jabs will no longer need to isolate.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said yesterday ministers are ‘concerned’ about the growing number of people off work after being pinged. Thousands of businesses and services are suffering as staff are ordered to quarantine after being told to isolate by the app.

But this figure is likely to soar once social distancing and mask restrictions are removed from Monday.

Mr Jenrick told the radio station LBC: ‘It is important that we have the app, that we take it seriously, that when we do get those messages we act accordingly. But we are going to give further thought to how we can ensure it is a proportionate response.’

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.’

Nissan has been affected at its main plant and it is believed that other carmakers, including Rolls-Royce could also have to make changes to production schedules to deal with the problem.

A spokesman for the British Meat Processors Association said: ‘We’re hearing reports from some members that between five and 10 per cent of their workforce have been ‘pinged’ by the app and asked to self-isolate.

‘This is on top of the desperate shortage of workers that the industry is already suffering. As a result, companies are having to simplify down their range of products to compensate for key skills being removed from their production lines.

‘If the UK workforce situation deteriorates further, companies will be forced to start shutting down production lines altogether.

‘It’s for this reason that we’ve been calling on the Government for months to add butchers to the Shortage Occupation List, which would allow the industry to temporarily fill these growing vacancies with overseas workers until the current crisis has passed.’

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

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: ‘Staff shortages will only get worse unless people are kept safe at work.

Test and Trace app pings neighbours through walls if their phones are too close despite the people having NO face-to-face contact 

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.’  

‘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.’

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union warned that the surge in people being pinged with self-isolation instructions will increase on Monday due to the Government’s ‘confused and conflicting’ messaging on wearing masks on transport services.

‎General Secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘RMT warned earlier this week that the Government’s botched handling of continuing Covid protection measures on public transport from Monday would have dire consequences and the sheer incompetence of those calling the shots 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 up to the safety standards that will remain in force in Wales and Scotland.’

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said, ‘Like many other sectors of the UK economy, automotive manufacturers and suppliers are being impacted by the growing number of coronavirus cases as restrictions are eased.

‘The industry has taken every step to make premises Covid safe, but with transmissions rising outside the workplace, and self-isolation rules preventing staff from working, staff shortages are putting production at risk and undermining the sector’s recovery.

‘Urgent action is needed to mitigate this impact, such as a change to the sensitivity of the NHS Test and Trace App or bringing forward the 16 August target date for exempting fully vaccinated adults from self-isolation.’ 

NHS chiefs have warned the system was making it ‘increasingly difficult’ to deliver routine care.

Another 48,553 Covid cases were reported yesterday, the highest total since January, with 63 more deaths. 

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.

The chief executive of Rolls-Royce said the car maker was on the ‘edge of a critical situation’ and a complete shutdown could not be ruled out. 

‘Cases have gone through the roof and it is causing havoc,’ Torsten Muller-Otvos told the Daily Telegraph. 

A major engine supplier said it was so far behind on orders it was considering moving work permanently to China.

Last night it was reported that filming of the second series of Bridgerton ground to a halt after a member of the production team tested positive, forcing cast and crew into isolation.

Filming of the new Mission Impossible movie also had to be halted for a second time after an outbreak, The Sun reported.

The National Care Association said care homes had ‘real staffing issues’ because of the app, while in Liverpool so many bin men are self-isolating that the council has told households their rubbish will not be collected until August. 

Bin rounds were also missed this week in Sutton Coldfield because of outbreaks of Covid.

Some hospital trusts have had up to 500 staff isolating at a time, forcing them to close beds and cancel operations.

In retail and hospitality a third of staff are off self-isolating in the worst-hit areas, forcing thousands of venues to shut. 

The British business owners on the brink of ‘ping-demonium’: Small firms to big business are on the verge of complete SHUTDOWN due to staff being forced into isolation after ‘ping’ from NHS Test and Trace app

  • Nearly 900,000 alerts telling people to quarantine in first week of this month
  • In retail and hospitality a third of staff are self-isolating in the worst-hit areas
  • People across UK are being pinged by app and told to self-isolate for ten days 
  • ** Has your business been hit by the ‘pingdemic’? Email: [email protected] ** 

** Has your business been hit by the ‘pingdemic’? Email: [email protected] ** 

Factories are now on the verge of shutting and small businesses have already been forced to close because so many workers are having to self isolate across Britain in the ‘pingdemic’.

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

It is causing chaos for families and firms, prompting business leaders to demand changes on the NHS Covid-19 app to avoid a ‘self-inflicted economic wound’.

In retail and hospitality a third of staff are self-isolating in the worst-hit areas, forcing thousands of venues to shut. 

People are pinged by the app and told to self-isolate for ten days after coming into contact with an infected person.

There is no legal requirement to self-isolate if pinged by the app – however, it is illegal to disobey an order to self-isolate in a phone call from NHS Test and Trace.


Marie Peacock (left), chief executive at Yorkshire’s Brain Tumour Charity in Leeds; and Amy Baker (right), who owns a beauty salon in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, have both been speaking to MailOnline about the problems caused by the app 

Test and Trace system is ‘woefully inadequate’ with small businesses suffering ‘crippling’ effects, says consultant

An HR and training consultant blasted the Test and Trace system as ‘woefully inadequate’ saying that for many small businesses – especially in the hospitality, events and retail sectors – it is ‘crippling’.

Kate Underwood, who runs an HR and training consultancy firm in Southampton

Kate Underwood, who runs the Kate Underwood HR and Training consultancy in Southampton, said some of her small business clients ‘could have more than 75 per cent of their staff off at a time that when they need to be pulling out all the stops and starting to recover financially from this pandemic’.

She told MailOnline today: ‘I have been asked advice on what to do from many clients and my advice is still the same – use common sense – talk to your teams and get them to make the decision on whether to trust the app. Put in extra Health and Safety measures yourself like doing a lateral flow test prior to any shift.

‘From working in hospitality for 15 years, the passion from those that work in the industry is starting to get frazzled – they have been on furlough for months, now they get pinged to say they can’t work and furlough payments have dropped.’

Plans to make the NHS Covid app less sensitive, meaning fewer people would be pinged, have been delayed as concerns mount over rising infection rates. 

And businesses around Britain have today been revealing the problems caused by the ‘pingdemic’.

The boss of a brain tumour charity in West Yorkshire told MailOnline today how the ‘pingdemic’ was causing the organisation a ‘real headache’.

Marie Peacock, chief executive at Yorkshire’s Brain Tumour Charity in Leeds, said: ‘Our fundraising income has been decimated and we are just starting to see some opportunities to begin to bring in the money we need to keep our support going, and guess what? The pings are going bonkers.’

She said the charity was attending the Great Yorkshire Show over four days this week, but lost half of their planned staff and volunteer cover due to self-isolation, even though they were testing daily and were showing no signs of symptoms.’

Ms Peacock added: ‘I have had to move work and resources around, close our charity shop and try to cover the best way possible. ‘It is costing the charity additional time and money that we can ill afford. I will always support and encourage my team to follow the advice, but have to admit the app has been deleted from my phone.’

An HR and training consultant blasted the Test and Trace system as ‘woefully inadequate’ saying that for many small businesses – especially in the hospitality, events and retail sectors – it is ‘crippling’.

Kate Underwood, who runs the Kate Underwood HR and Training consultancy in Southampton, said some of her small business clients ‘could have more than 75 per cent of their staff off at a time that when they need to be pulling out all the stops and starting to recover financially from this pandemic’.

She told MailOnline today: ‘I have been asked advice on what to do from many clients and my advice is still the same – use common sense – talk to your teams and get them to make the decision on whether to trust the app. Put in extra Health and Safety measures yourself like doing a lateral flow test prior to any shift.

‘From working in hospitality for 15 years, the passion from those that work in the industry is starting to get frazzled – they have been on furlough for months, now they get pinged to say they can’t work and furlough payments have dropped.’ 


Timpson’s founder Sir John Timpson (left) and Imran Hussain (right), director of Harmony Financial Services mortage advisory firm , have also told of the problems with the system

Businesses across the country are ‘only one ping away from a whole world of financial pain’, says independent coffee firm owner

The co-founder of a coffee business told MailOnline that businesses across the country were ‘only one ping away from a whole world of financial pain’.

Craig Bunting, co-founder of BEAR in Derby

Craig Bunting, co-founder of BEAR, a Derby-based independent coffee brand which has five stores in the UK, said not legalising the isolation requirements from the Test and Trace app ‘shows that the Government doesn’t trust its own technology and systems, so why should we, as small business owners?’

He added: ‘We have stores that have closed, meaning lost revenue, and others on a permanent knife edge. You’re only one ping away from a whole world of financial pain.

‘Despite this, and as much as I might personally want to, we don’t advise our staff to ignore the app, as we have a duty of care and responsibility as a brand to follow the guidance.

‘We see evidence that more staff are making their own decision to remove the app or turn off contract tracing altogether. As a result, the Government are losing or have already lost the trust of the public.’

 

Meanwhile, the owner of a beauty salon said she has suffered from having to self-isolate when her children ‘have the slightest cough’.

Amy Baker, who owns and runs Halo Beauty and Holistic Therapy in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, said she and her husband have both had hospital appointments and surgical procedures over the past year – each time having to have a Covid test 72 hours prior to the procedure, along with all the household.

And she told MailOnline: ‘If my children have the slightest cough, they too have had to take a Covid test and again (that) has meant that I have also had to isolate with them. 

‘Unfortunately because these are not informed by the app and because we get child tax credits via Universal Credit, we are not eligible to receive the £500 isolation payment.

‘Being self-employed in the beauty industry in the 72 hours I have lost income massively due to this. If I started getting constant track and trace pings and have to cancel people’s appointments, I fear I could lose customers.’

The director of a mortgage advisory company criticised the NHS app as a ‘disaster pretty much from the start’ and said trust from the public is ‘paper thin’.

Imran Hussain, from Harmony Financial Services in Nottingham, told MailOnline: ‘The Government not legislating that isolation is necessary if pinged does show a lack of faith from the Government in its own app, which has cost however many millions to create.

‘We don’t ever advise our team to ignore the app if pinged; as easy as it may be, I feel we have a responsibility to ensure we follow the guidance so we can all return to some normality as soon as possible. There’s no doubt that trust from the public is paper thin currently.’ 

As for bigger businesses, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce said the car maker was on the ‘edge of a critical situation’ after a large proportion of his UK staff were told to self-isolate.

Torsten Muller-Otvos said a complete shutdown of operations at its factories could not be ruled out, telling the Daily Telegraph: ‘Cases have gone through the roof and it is causing havoc.’

He declined to say how many of its staff had been pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app, but told how the company is now looking at having to combine staff from both shifts into a single shift. 

Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Muller-Otvos said a complete shutdown of operations at its factories could not be ruled out

‘I’m livid’, says brewery owner who has six of his pubs shut due to staff shortages as he blasts Test and Trace as a ‘joke’ 

William Lees-Jones, the owner of J.W. Lees, a brewery and pub chain, currently has six of his 150 pubs shut because of staff shortages.

William Lees-Jones, the owner of J.W. Lees

He said: ‘I’m livid. It is frustrating at a time when we’re trying to recover. It’s one thing after another. Test and Trace has been a joke since it launched.’

The Manchester-based chain which was founded in 1828 has 42 managed pubs, inns and hotels – and also lets a further 105 venues to its pub partners.

At the start of July, Mr Lees-Jones said the number of his staff being asked to self-isolate by the NHS app had tripled in the previous few weeks from about 20 to more than 60. He said most were not ill or did not test positive for Covid-19.

Mr Lees-Jones has described Test and Trace as a ‘nightmare’ and is furious at how it appears hundreds of thousands of people are having to isolate despite not being ill.

It comes after the firm said it had been ‘religious’ about social distancing in its factories during the pandemic.

The company has more than 22,000 employees across seven sites in the UK, in Bristol, Rotherham, Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, Washington in Tyne and Wear and Inchinnan in Scotland.

The Timpson’s shoe repairs business has been badly affected by the ‘pingdemic,’ with more than 100 staff forced to isolate by the Test and Trace app.

Sir John Timpson, founder and owner of the chain, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier this week: ‘We are 140 people down… many due to isolation, which is people who have got to be home to look after children or people forced to isolate due to the Test and Trace app.’

The firm, which also runs three gastro pubs and restaurants in north Wales, also lost around £10,000-a-day when one – the Oyster Catcher, in Anglesey – was forced to close for similar reasons.

Sir John added: ‘We have three busy pubs and, one of those on Anglesey, we had 24 people isolating. We had to shut the pub, costing us £10,000 a day in turn over, the pub was shut for 10 days, it’s a real problem.’

His son, James, apologised for ‘a dip in the level of service’ in their shops. ‘Like many schools and businesses, we are struggling because so many colleagues are isolating after being ‘pinged’ by Test and Trace,’ he said. ‘We also have 120 colleagues who have had to stay at home to care for children sent home from school.’

Meanwhile car manufacturer Nissan is among the larger businesses hit by the ‘pingdemic’, with up to 900 staff at its plant in Sunderland said to be self-isolating.

The Japanese company, which employs 6,000 people at the major UK site, has had to make changes to how its factory is run due to the high number of employees being pinged by the app.

A Nissan spokesman said: ‘Production in certain areas of the plant has been adjusted as we manage a number of staff being required to self-isolate following close contact with Covid-19.

‘The wellbeing of our team is our number one priority and we remain confident in the rigorous safety controls we have on site.’

** Has your business been hit by the ‘pingdemic’? Email: [email protected] ** 

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