Double-jabbed NHS staff could be exempt from Covid-19 app self-isolation

10 July 2021, 09:43

NHS staff could soon be exempt from self-isolation if pinged by the NHS app
NHS staff could soon be exempt from self-isolation if pinged by the NHS app. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

NHS staff could soon be exempt from self-isolation if pinged by the NHS app over fears the significant backlog faced by the health service will only be made worse by staff having to stay at home.

Downing Street said on Friday that ahead of Step 4 of restrictions being lifted, expected on July 19, officials were examining whether NHS staff could be freed of the obligation to self-isolate if "pinged" by the Covid app.

Under current plans, those who are fully vaccinated will be able to forgo self-isolation even if the app detects they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive after August 16.

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But this may be brought forward for NHS staff, as leaders warned of the significant backlog faced by the health service which will only be intensified by staff having to stay at home.

On Thursday Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said staff levels were being hit because of staff self-isolating.

And on Friday the Prime Minister's official spokesman, when asked if there could be a specific exemption for NHS staff, said: "It's something we're looking at ahead of Step 4, but we would obviously need to set out any updates in the usual way."

The number of exposure alerts sent to users of the app in England soared by more than 60% in a week, according to the latest contact tracing figures.

And it has led to a plea for the public not to delete the app.

The No 10 spokesman said the app had been an "important tool" in breaking the chain of transmission of coronavirus.

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"The Prime Minister has been clear that he continues to use it," the spokesman said.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the sensitivity of the app is being kept under constant review and that it could possibly be tweaked "to be suitable to the circumstances of the time".

But Justin Madders, Labour's shadow health minister, said: "It is hard to square this plan with the more transmissible Delta variant, now is not the time to be taking the batteries out of the smoke alarm."

It comes amid further fears over the rising number of cases.

As of 9am on Friday, there had been a further 35,707 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the Government said, the highest daily increase since January 22.

A further 29 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, bringing the UK total to 128,365.

It remains the case that the majority of people being admitted to hospital in England with the Delta variant are unvaccinated, according to the PHE figures.

And it was announced on Friday that extra support would be rolled out in Oxford due to a rise in cases.

The Government's certification review release earlier in the week said although the so-called vaccine passports would not be mandated now, it did not rule out the prospect if England faces "a difficult situation in autumn or winter".