'It's absolute chaos:' 'Pingdemic' threatening businesses and services ahead of 'freedom day'

Credit: PA

Fresh warnings have been issued over the “significant impact” the NHS Covid-19 app is having on businesses after more than half a million people in England were "pinged" by the NHS Covid-19 app in a single week - the highest weekly figure ever recorded.

The 'pingdemic' is wreaking "havoc" for businesses as hundreds of thousands of people are being asked to self-isolate. Transport unions said there will be “dire consequences” next week when staff are “pinged” with instructions to self-isolate over close contacts as the level of infections rise.

West End show The Prince of Egypt was forced to cancel this week after one person in the company tested positive for Covid-19.

All the infected person's close contacts are self isolating for ten days in line with Government guidelines.

Michelin starred restaurant Pied à Terre has been dinner service only because of a drastic shortage of staff.

Owner David Moore fears it could ruin the restaurants chances of recovery.

Soho Credit: PA

Ministers are examining whether to make the NHS app less sensitive, with 530,126 alerts having been sent in England and Wales during the first week of July.

Amid warnings of a “pingdemic”, fully-vaccinated individuals will be exempt from having to quarantine over close contacts but this change will not be introduced until August 16.

Solicitor General Lucy Frazer defended the government's approach.

“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.

“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.”

Sir Jonathan Montgomery, former chair of the ethics advisory board for the NHS Test and Trace app, said he would not change the function of being “pinged” by the app but rather what is required afterwards.

Credit: PA

The professor of healthcare law at University College London told LBC: “We need to think about the consequences of being pinged.

“When the app was designed, we didn’t have the ability to reliable home test, we didn’t have very many people jabbed, and the big worrying thing about this virus is that you can pass it on before you know you have it.

“So, I wouldn’t be changing the pinging but I would be changing the consequences of being pinged.”

Punch Taverns founder Hugh Osmond called for those pinged on the NHS Covid-19 app to be allowed to go back to work if they get a PCR test that returns negative.

“It is absolutely chaos, and clearly the app really isn’t fit for purpose because people are getting pinged all over the place and the vast majority do not ever test positive, let alone be ill,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

Unite has called on the government to ease the isolation requirements earlier than the planned August 16 - when double-jabbed contacts of positive cases will no longer need to isolate.

"It is clear that something has to be done in time for July 19, or else people will simply start deleting the app en masse to avoid isolation notices," Mr Turner said.

"There will be public health consequences if test and trace is seen as a nuisance rather than an infection control measure."