'Pingdemic' fury as NHS app 'pings neighbours through walls'

16 July 2021, 09:10

Reports suggest the team behind the NHS Test and Trace app are aware it can 'ping' neighbours through walls.
Reports suggest the team behind the NHS Test and Trace app are aware it can 'ping' neighbours through walls. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Neighbours have been forced to isolate after they were 'pinged' through a wall, as data revealed almost one percent of Brits were told to self isolate by the NHS Covid app last week.

The Telegraph reports that the Test and Trace app team are aware that the Bluetooth signal, used to judge how close someone's phone is to another, is strong enough to penetrate brick walls.

The result is that hundreds of people may be being forced to self-isolate with zero risk of having caught Covid - which cannot travel through a wall.

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One bar owner in Hampshire told the newspaper he was pinged despite not having come into close contact with anyone that day.

Jason Delaney said he later found out his neighbour had tested positive and they share a standing wall. He isolated for 10 days as instructed and lost around "four grand in takings" as a result.

A government spokesperson said they "wouldn't say that this never happens" but insisted the number was not large enough to be considered "an issue", The Telegraph reports.

It comes as data revealed on Thursday that over half a million people were told to self-isolate in England and Wales in the week to 7 July, just under 1 in 100 people.

The total of 530,126 is a 46 percent increase on the week before and is the highest total across seven days since the figures first began being published in January.

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There are growing calls for the app to be changed, as businesses warn they may be unable to operate if cases continue to surge following 'Freedom Day'.

From August 16, double-jabbed people can avoid isolating if they come into contact with a Covid case.

They will only need to isolate if they actually test positive.

However, there is almost a month between restrictions lifting and these new rule coming into force, and the number of people being told to isolate is already at record levels.

Sir Jonathan Montgomery, former chair of the ethics advisory board for the NHS Test and Trace app, told LBC he thinks people should not be required to self-isolate after a 'ping'.

"The ping should help us manage the risk and think about it - it shouldn't become a yes or no thing, you are either locked up in home or you are out and about," he told Nick Ferrari.

"We need to focus on how much risk actually you might be of having been infected, so your vaccination status is key to that, and then we need to look at your ability to spot whether you have been infected as quickly as possible.

"If I have been pinged and I'm pretty sure that I wasn't infected and I'm taking lateral flow tests, I'm still not going to go and see an elderly relative who is vulnerable or someone who is having cancer care, because I just don't want to take that risk.

"But I would like to be able to go to work where I can take other precautions, I can be masked, I can wash my hands, because that's managing the risk, and I think that's the key thing."

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Solicitor general Lucy Frazer told Nick the government are aware of the issue: "It's frustrating for people who are just going about their daily lives. It's hugely frustrating for businesses asking their workers not to come in. I get all that.

But, explaining why the government's changes to self-isolation will only come in on August 16, she said: "We have to take measures to ensure we protect people and we know that the virus doesn't have symptoms for everybody."