NHS Covid app sensitivity WON'T be changed, Nadhim Zahawi hints

NHS Covid app sensitivity WON’T be changed, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi says

  • Zahawi said no plans to tweak app despite outcry over number of people it pings 
  • Some were alerted by software through walls after neighbour tested positive 
  • No10 is sticking by its August 16 date, when double-jabbed won’t need to comply

The software was heavily criticised after some people were ‘pinged’ through their wall and told to isolate when a neighbour tested positive

The NHS Covid app won’t be tweaked despite an outcry for the software’s sensitivity to be dialled down amid fears it is causing a ‘pingdemic’.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the ‘right thing to do’ was to leave the app as it is and instead relax isolation rules for the fully vaccinated as planned next month.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman claimed the app was working as expected. 

The software was heavily criticised after some people were ‘pinged’ through their wall and told to isolate when a neighbour tested positive.

The Government has already announced that, from August 16, double-jabbed Britons will not need to quarantine when they are ‘pinged’, as long as they test negative for the virus.

But there is growing pressure for that date to be brought forward due to concerns the app will cause major disruptions over the next month now that lockdown curbs have been lifted and cases are still soaring.

The PM’s spokesman said: ‘We recognise that with high cases that also means a high number of people being required to isolate and that does present significant challenges to businesses.

‘We need to strike the right balance between protecting lives and livelihoods. That’s why we believe it is entirely right that people asked to do so do isolate because we know it prevents onward transmission and eases pressure on our NHS which is facing a significant challenge.’

He said the Government would ‘constantly review’ issues around critical workers and critical infrastructure.

Asked whether the app was working as expected and so would not be tweaked, the spokesman said: ‘That’s correct.’

Experts estimate around 1.7million people are currently self-isolating after being ‘pinged’ by the Covid app or contacted by Test and Trace, including the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. 

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are still reviewing whether all children should be given the vaccine, while the Daily Telegraph said the committee is ‘leaving the door open’ for the move

This number could rise to 5million by the end of this month, according to analysis by MailOnline. 

Double-jabbed NHS staff can return to work if they test negative for the virus continuously for a week, under new rules brought in today to avoid more operations being cancelled due to staff shortages.

But industry bosses have warned of food shortages and widespread public transport disruptions over the next month due to the app, while councils say waste bins could lie on the streets for weeks.

Critical frontline NHS and social care staff will be able to avoid self-isolation to go to work from today if they are double-jabbed, the Government announced last night.

Ministers were under intense pressure to intervene as the ‘pingdemic’ took its toll on hospitals, with some forced to call off operations because of staff shortages.

Healthcare workers who have been in contact with a positive case will now, in exceptional circumstances, be able to return to work after they have had a negative PCR test.

They must then take daily lateral flow tests, and should wear PPE properly throughout their day at work.

It will apply to staff who have either been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Staff who are permitted to go to work will remain under a legal duty to self-isolate as a close contact but will be considered to have a ‘reasonable excuse’ to attend work if their absence could result in harm.

Decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis and only after a risk assessment by the organisation’s management, the Government said.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said last night: ‘As we learn to live with this virus, it’s important that we ensure frontline staff can keep providing the best possible care and support to people up and down the country.

‘The Government has backed healthcare services at every turn through this global pandemic and these new rules will fortify our collective defences against this awful virus, by allowing fully vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff to continue to work when needed.’

Asked what could be done to change the app during a round of interviews this morning, Mr Zahawi shot down hopes that the August 16 date could be brought forward.

He told Sky News: ‘I think the right thing to do is to continue to clinically advise people, with that sensitivity, that they have come into contact with people who have tested positive.

‘The difference now so that we’ve got almost 88 per cent of people with one dose and 68 per cent of people with two doses.

‘So we can take decisions like we’ve just done with NHS and social care staff, we can make decisions that on August 16 anyone who is double vaccinated doesn’t need to then isolate if they are pinged and don’t test positive for Covid. 

‘Those changes are happening because of the vaccination programme.’  

The loosening of isolation rules have been brought forward for critical frontline NHS and social care staff, who from today will be able to avoid self-isolation to go to work if they are double-jabbed.

Ministers were under intense pressure to intervene as the ‘pingdemic’ took its toll on hospitals, with some forced to call off operations because of staff shortages.

Healthcare workers who have been in contact with a positive case will now, in exceptional circumstances, be able to return to work after they have had a negative PCR test.

They must then take daily lateral flow tests, and should wear PPE properly throughout their day at work.

It will apply to staff who have either been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace. 

Staff who are permitted to go to work will remain under a legal duty to self-isolate as a close contact but will be considered to have a ‘reasonable excuse’ to attend work if their absence could result in harm.

Decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis and only after a risk assessment by the organisation’s management, the Government said.   

the lifting of almost all legal restrictions have merely fuelled fears about spiking cases bringing the economy grinding to a halt, as more and more people are doomed to house arrest.

Many firms say their sites are having to open with reduced hours or shut completely because up to a quarter of staff are off as a precautionary measure – with scientists warning the situation could spiral as the UK faces up to 200,000 cases a day.

The Road Haulage Association has warned of impending chaos in supply chains, with chief executive Rod Mackenzie telling the FT: ‘Far from freedom day being freedom day, it’s going to be disaster day.’ 

Large numbers of Tube passengers were pictured with faces uncovered this morning on Freedom Day, despite London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to continue enforcing their use across the capital’s transport network 

Shoppers in a London Tesco not wearing masks today. All the major supermarkets are asking customers to continue doing so 

British children as young as TWO may get Covid vaccines

Every child in the UK could be offered a Covid jab by the end of the year, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi suggested today.

No10 is set to unveil plans to immunise Britons aged 12 to 16 who have underlying health conditions or live with a vulnerable family member.

The plans will also see 17-year-olds who are months away from their 18th birthdays offered a vaccine.

But ministers will stop short of opening the rollout up to all healthy youngsters until more safety data is collected in places like the US, where it is already happening.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation — which advises No10 on the inoculation drive — will also review data from ongoing trials of Pfizer’s jab in children as young as two.

Mr Zahawi said the Government had niggling concerns about the ‘very rare’ cases of heart inflammation in some young people given the Pfizer and Moderna jabs.

It comes as all Covid restrictions are lifted in England today, though Boris Johnson has urged caution as the outbreak across the country is spurred on by the more contagious Indian ‘Delta’ variant.

He will be spending Freedom Day in isolation — along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak — because they were both identified as close contacts of Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for the virus at the weekend.

Iceland supermarket boss Richard Walker accused the Government of ‘squandering the advantages’ of its successful vaccination programme by forcing double-jabbed people to self-isolate, adding: ‘We’re behaving like it’s the dark days of March 2020’.

Humphrey Cobbold, the CEO of PureGym, which has more than 1.1million members in 287 sites, said: ‘We’ve been talking internally about living in the United Pingdom and it’s become a huge challenge for individuals and businesses’, adding his staff are ‘being pinged all the time’.

He added: ‘Up to 25 per cent of our staff in some areas have been asked to self-isolate. Through flexibility we’ve been able to keep sites open so far but it’s been a really close call. I think there is a different way to react to the pings for the double vaccinated and using lateral flow tests that would keep the economy functioning’.

Greene King pub boss Nick MacKenzie said: ‘It’s a problem and it could get worse. It is disruptive to the business. We had to close 33 pubs in the past week because of a lack of staff and across the industry we think it is one in 5 who have been affected by this and therefore it is causing us a real issue on a daily basis. We are having to have shorten hours in certain circumstances.’

He added: ‘We need clarity from government on how the app works and we need to move to a test and release scheme where people can take a lateral flow test every day and get back to work and some sort of normality’.

Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had announced yesterday they would take part in a pilot scheme to avoid quarantine after coming into close contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid at the weekend. 

But amid widespread outrage from politicians, business leaders and the public they humiliatingly caved in within hours and revealed they would join the legions of people self-isolating – in the PM’s case Chequers until July 26, his country estate in Buckinghamshire.

They had faced accusations they were accessing a ‘VIP lane’ that was not available to workers who are having to isolate, bringing some businesses and public transport to the brink of collapse.

There was confusion about how Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak were contacted after the PM tweeted that he had been ‘pinged’, seemingly referring to the app. 

But his official spokesperson said he had been contacted through the Government’s Test and Trace programme.

The difference between the two is that those alerted by the app have to follow a voluntary isolation period, whereas those directly contacted by tracers are legally obliged to quarantine.  

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