Up to 1.6 million people in England have been asked to self-isolate in a single week, according to a Guardian analysis, with the government saying the Covid app should not be changed for weeks.
The number of new coronavirus cases in the UK rose to 48,553 on Thursday – the highest since mid-January and the start of the third lockdown – with the upward curve showing no signs of slowing down, raising fears of a summer of chaos then that businesses and households are affected by self-isolation. Sixty-three people are believed to have died from the virus on Thursday.
Ministers warned the public to expect 50,000 daily cases by the time of England’s major reopening on Monday, rising to 100,000 this summer, but said the successful rollout of the vaccine means restrictions are only expected. not be imposed.
A week ago, after forecasts that up to 10 million people would be forced to self-isolate within a six-week period, Jenny Harries, head of the new Health Security Agency, told MPs that the government planned to modify the Covid-19 application to make it less sensitive and represent the majority of adults currently vaccinated. The need to self-isolate after exposure to a confirmed case of Covid will be removed for fully vaccinated people in England from August 16.
On Thursday, however, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that as the government accepts the technology to be tweaked, “we’ll give more thought to how this is a proportionate response,” adding: “The government will be laying out their plans in the coming weeks, so I’m not going to anticipate them.
“It’s important that we have the app, that we take it seriously and that when we receive these messages we act on it,” he told the BBC.
Data released by the government and analyzed by the Guardian revealed that the number of people being asked to self-quarantine is on the rise.
According to the latest statistics, around 337,695 people were asked to self-isolate by NHS test and seek close contact with someone who tested positive in the week of July 1-7.
Over the same period, 520,194 people were also cracked by the Covid app. The number of schoolchildren forced into isolation because others in their “bubble” were positive, Covid cases stood at 624,000 in the week of July 2 to 8.
With the addition of those who themselves tested positive, making a total of 194,005, this meant that there were up to 1,675,894 people being asked to self-isolate over a one-week period in England. .
The previous week’s figure stood at 1,206,612 – suggesting the number of people being asked to stay at home is increasing and may continue to do so after almost all Covid restrictions in England are lifted from Monday .
Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said the numbers were “staggering – even before Sajid Javid [the health secretary] rejects all caution by removing vital protections such as wearing a mask ”.
He told The Guardian: “With signs that testing is slowing, allowing infections to reach 100,000 without action could spell a summer of chaos and serious long-term illness for many people. “
Feryal Clark, a Labor MP, complained on Thursday that when she tried to book a PCR test through the government website, none were available in any part of England. Although the website showed tests can be booked in most areas later in the day, Javid’s Department of Health and Welfare has admitted that demand for tests is increasing.
The Covid app, which monitors how close users are to each other and asks if they’ve spent more than 15 minutes within 2 meters of a person who then tested positive, needed to be changed to reduce their sensitivity.
Other complaints about the app include that it does not track people’s immunization status and therefore knows their reduced risk of Covid, whether the contact has occurred outdoors or whether the screens may have helped reduce the risk of Covid. risk of transmission.
A series of trials have been conducted where close contacts were tested every day instead of needing to be isolated, but the results still have not been released, much to the chagrin of some government insiders.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “The NHS Covid-19 app reduced the spread of the coronavirus and prevented around 600,000 Covid-19 cases and 8,000 deaths between September and December 2020.
“The app does exactly what it was designed to do – inform close contacts of someone who tests positive for Covid-19 that they are at risk and advise them to self-isolate.
“As cases continue to increase, it is essential that people are aware of their personal risk so that they can make informed decisions about their behavior in order to protect those around them. “