NHS app to be 'tuned' after 62% spike in people told to self-isolate in a week

8 July 2021, 14:52

Dr Jenny Harries admitted that some people have now been deleting the NHS Covid-19 app.
Dr Jenny Harries admitted that some people have now been deleting the NHS Covid-19 app. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Work is under way to "tune" the NHS app to take into account whether people have been vaccinated after figures showed a huge increase in the numbers told to isolate.

"We have a piece of work ongoing at the moment because it is entirely possible to tune the app to ensure that it is appropriate to the risk," head of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Harries said.

Giving evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee, she told MPs that "working through what a vaccinated population using the app means is something that we are actively doing at the moment".

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The comments come as new data shows 356,036 people were told to isolate by the Covid-19 app in England in the week to 30 June.

This is up from 219,391 the previous week - a jump of 62 per cent - and is the highest weekly figure since data was first published in January.

Hospitality businesses and NHS trusts have warned that they are facing staff shortages as large percentages of their workforce are told to self-isolate as case numbers rise.

Asked by MPs whether some people were deleting the app, Dr Harries said: "I am aware that people are choosing not to use the app."

She added that the app had resulted in 500,000 cases of the disease being detected and it was important that people continued to use it.

"We are a seeing rise in cases so this is not an inconvenience, it's actually to alert people to the fact that they have been in close contact and that they may be at risk of being infected themselves and passing that infection on to other people," she said.

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Dr Jenny Harries was giving evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee.
Dr Jenny Harries was giving evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee. Picture: PA

Earlier on Thursday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told LBC that Health Secretary Sajid Javid is "seeking advice" on a "proportionate" approach for self-isolation when people are 'pinged' by the app.

Speaking to LBC's Tom Swarbrick, Mr Sunak said he could "understand" people's frustrations around being "pinged" by the NHS Test and Trace app.

Mr Sunak said he had spoken to Mr Javid about the system just yesterday and acknowledged that the public's "concerns and frustrations rest with the app".

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On Wednesday, Boris Johnson defended his policy on coronavirus self-isolation in the face of a backlash from business and warnings it will lead to millions of people being forced to stay at home.

The prime minister has promised to tear up most of England's coronavirus regulations at Step 4 of the road map, expected on 19 July, but a major relaxation of self-isolation rules will not be brought in until 16 August.