Nearly 620,000 people were ordered to self-isolate by the application during the week to July 14, according to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Health, setting a new weekly record.
The total number of “pings” sent when the app detects that a person has spent time near an individual who subsequently tested positive for Covid exceeded 4m.
The large number of people recommended for isolation has been accused by business leaders of exacerbating existing worker shortages, threatening to disrupt food and fuel supplies.
But the 17% growth in app alerts slowed significantly from the 46% jump reported the week before, when pings exceeded 500,000 for the first time.
This rate of increase lags behind the larger increase in infections, which have increased by over 60% over the same period. The gap may suggest that more people may have disabled or removed the app to avoid being isolated.
A person familiar with the data argued that the trend of app pings leads a few days ahead of the number of infections, which also showed slower growth over the following week.
UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News it was “really ashamed” that people seemed to be removing the app.
“These rules are in place to protect everyone and I think the whole point of self-isolation is that we are protecting society at large and I think people should follow the rules,” he said. he declares.
According to the Department of Health, the number of people using the NHS Test and Trace app to register in pubs, shops and other places fell 10% from the previous week – which was considered another sign of deletions.
A recent YouGov poll suggested that one in 10 previous users of the app had deleted it, while one in five who still had the app installed had disabled its contact tracing capabilities.
Use of the app is even lower among 18-24 year olds – who are also the least likely to be vaccinated – YouGov found.
The app, based on technology developed by Apple and Google, uses Bluetooth signals to anonymously detect connections between individuals.
Despite growing concerns over staffing in the retail, hospitality and logistics sectors, Rachel Clarke, an NHS doctor and palliative care author, expressed her frustration on Twitter with those who accused a so-called “pingemia” to disrupt the economy, when the underlying problem was a rapid increase in infections.
“This is not a ‘pingemia’,” she said. tweeted. “This is a highly infectious and dangerous disease that is allowed to prevail in the population. It is a surprisingly reckless political choice.
The ministers have been accused of exacerbating public confusion over the app. Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak initially said they would not self-isolate after being contacted by Test and Trace after Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive for the virus last weekend. The British Prime Minister and Chancellor reversed their positions after a backlash.
“The app does exactly what we designed it to do,” said Wolfgang Emmerich, managing director of Zühlke UK, the Swiss IT company that worked on the NHS Covid app. “In our opinion, it is important that people continue to use it and those who are asked to self-isolate do so if they can in order to stop the spread of the virus since almost all other defenses have now been deleted. ”
The Department of Health pointed to a study that showed the NHS app prevented around 600,000 cases of Covid-19 and 8,000 deaths between September and December 2020.