‘I could remove it’: NHS Covid-19 app users amid ‘pingdemic’

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TThe number of downloads of the NHS Covid-19 app has dropped dramatically amid a ‘pingemia’ causing shortages of goods and workers, after former health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned last week that the government “risks losing social consent” for its test-and-trace if it does not allow fully vaccinated people to avoid isolation.

There were 43% fewer downloads of the NHS Covid-19 app in the week ending June 30 compared to the week ending June 14, according to government data, while a record number of 689,313 people in England and Wales were contacted by the application and invited to self-isolate during the week to July 12th.

Between June 24 and 30, the app was downloaded 170,412 times in England and Wales. While it was downloaded 302,895 times in the week ending June 14, data indicates that the number of people actively using it in the way intended had already started to decline by that time – a trend that continued.

In the week ending July 14, for example, the app saw 2.3 million fewer site registrations than in the last week of June in England, a drop of almost 19 %. The number of registrations at sites in England fell further, with just 6.6 million registrations totaling in the week ending July 21 – a 47% drop from the week ending July 21. June 30th.

While the number of contact tracing alerts sent through the app has steadily increased since the third week of May, test and research data shows that in the week ending July 21 , only 85.1% of positive cases transferred to the contact tracing system were contacted and asked to provide information on their recent close contacts – the lowest percentage since the week ending October 28, 2020.

As various sectors are affected by staff shortages due to increasing Covid isolations, four people spoke to the Guardian about the pressures they face after being interviewed by the NHS Covid-19 app and invited to s ‘self-isolate. While some intend to continue to sign on to the app’s notifications, despite the disruption in their lives, others have said they are considering removing it, or have already done so. Some never downloaded it in the first place.

Daniel, railway worker

Daniel has been pinged multiple times by the NHS Covid-19 app.

He received another notification last week asking him to self-isolate for six days until Friday last week, which he complied with. There are currently around 20 people in his office and he felt pressured to return to work before the end of his isolation period.

“A few days after receiving a ping, management tried to persuade me to come in for a lateral flow test,” he said.

“I explained that I should refuse. How can I isolate myself and travel on busy trains and buses? The guy from my job said to me, “I’ll consider you as not wanting to work then” and I had to call my regional office. They confirmed that showing up for a test was voluntary.

“I don’t see how asking people to travel for a test is within the guidelines. It shows complete contempt for the community.

Daniel intends to keep the app, but understands why others may be thinking about deleting it. “People are nuts because the cases are on the rise, and I can see that people can feel pressured, but it’s far too important to be left to individual choice. “

Hannah, full time employee

However, Hannah, 39, a mother of two school-aged children from London, deleted the NHS Covid-19 app and admitted that she would not allow testing and tracing if she had symptoms or had come into contact with it. someone who has tested positive.

“When I had symptoms that could have been Covid, I did a home test [lateral flow] and ruled out infection that way. If he had tested positive I would have stayed at home isolated and told other parents in private, but I would not have informed about the test and screening, ”she said. .

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