Downing Street contradicts minister on app alerts

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pingdemic: Downing Street has said it is 'crucial' for individuals to isolate when notified by the NHS Covid app (image: Getty/Mark Sutherland)
Pingdemic: Downing Street has said it is 'crucial' for individuals to isolate when notified by the NHS Covid app (image: Getty/Mark Sutherland)

Related tags: coronavirus, Nhs, Paul Scully, lockdown, England

Downing Street has contradicted a minister who said businesses and employees should make their own “informed decisions” concerning self-isolation alerts from the NHS app.

Business minister Paul Scully told journalists this morning (Tuesday 20 July) bosses and individuals should make 'informed decisions' about whether or not to self-isolate.

However a Downing Street spokesperson said it was "crucial" individuals alerted by the NHS Covid 19 app isolate even if they were not contacted by NHS Test and Trace via phone, email or text.

Under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, it is only a legal obligation to self-isolate when contacted by NHS contact-tracers.

The app is voluntary to download and officials have urged the public to not delete it in order to “do the right thing” and help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Individuals are instructed to self-isolate for up to 10 days by the app if they are identified as having come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

When asked by Sky News​ if individuals should follow the app’s instructions, minister Paul Scully said: "I would absolutely encourage people to do that. But they can make an informed decision.

"I don't want to have to mandate people and tell people what to do as Government any longer than I really have to.

"But they do have a responsibility to themselves, to their families and to their communities. It's by doing the right thing that we can keep Covid at bay."

Crucial to isolate

His message was later contradicted by a No. 10 spokesperson who said it was “crucial” for individuals to isolate after coming into contact with a positive case and employers should support them to do so.

Pub bosses have been forced to close venues owing to high levels of staff receiving app notifications or being contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Greene King said it had shut 33 pubs in one week due to a lack of available staff while trade bodies have called for a ‘test to release’ scheme to allow staff to return to work quickly.

UKHospitality is among sector voices calling for the Government to intervene and adapt the system.

The trade body was asked whether operators should be encouraged to make their own “informed decisions” with staff about isolating after being ‘pinged’ by the app by using tests and personal context.

Calls for intervention

A spokesperson said: “It has always been our understanding from discussions with Government that the NHS Covid-19 app was advisory and has no legal basis."

They added: "The industry is facing significant staffing challenges just as restrictions ease after 16 months, with up to as many as a fifth of staff in the sector isolating at any one time.

"We urge the Government to move quicker on this issue with a ‘test to release’ system to prevent the summer being cancelled and vast swathes of the population unnecessarily confined to their homes.”

Isolation rules will change on 16 August so that double jabbed individuals who are identified as close contacts do not have to self-isolate as long as they get a negative PCR test.

Hospitality’s younger workforce means that these changes will not go far enough to prevent a summer of staff shortages and closures as many workers will not be fully jabbed until the autumn, pub bosses have said.

Related topics: Health & safety

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