NHS Covid app alerts fall by 43% as 'pingdemic' appears to ease

Politics Correspondent Shehab Khan on signs the 'pingdemic' could be starting to ease

Alerts sent by the NHS Covid app to self-isolate have almost halved in a week, signalling that the 'pingdemic' could be easing.

A total of 395,971 alerts were sent to users of the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales in the week to July 28 telling them they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.

It's a drop of 43%, with figures for the previous week showing 690,129 alerts were sent on the app, according to government statistics.

A total of 189,232 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to July 28, down 39% on the previous week, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

It is the first week-on-week fall since the week to May 5.

The government recently tweaked the way the app works so that fewer alerts would be sent, after a lifting of restrictions in England saw huge numbers told to self-isolate - with a so-called "pingdemic" depleting staff numbers across various industries.

It had been widely reported that swathes of people had been deleting or deactivating the app in order to avoid being pinged, but the head of NHS Test and Trace insisted on Monday that around 40% of the eligible population is still "regularly using the app".

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said the "logic" behind the app had been tweaked, although the sensitivity and risk threshold will remain unchanged.

Instead of checking contacts for five days before a positive test, the app will only go back two days.

People are still being urged to continue following the app's self-isolation advice, which Dr Jenny Harries from Test and Trace saying has "saved thousands of lives over the course of this pandemic".

She added: “I strongly encourage everyone, even those fully vaccinated, to continue using the app.

"It is a lifesaving tool that helps us to stay safe and to protect those closest to us as we return to a more familiar way of life.”

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