No10 says it's crucial people self-isolate if 'pinged' after minister's comments to LBC

20 July 2021, 11:22 | Updated: 20 July 2021, 13:52

Nick Ferrari grills minister over Lloyd-Webber comments

By Emma Soteriou

Number 10 has been forced to remind people it is still 'crucial to self-isolate if "pinged" as a contact by the NHS Covid-19 app.

A spokeswoman for Number 10 said quarantining was "crucial" to prevent the spread of the virus, especially after the country's unlocking on 19 July.

"Isolation remains the most important action people can take to stop the spread of the virus," she said.

"Given the risk of having and spreading the virus when people have been in contact with someone with Covid it is crucial people isolate when they are told to do so, either by NHS Test and Trace or by the NHS covid app.

"Businesses should be supporting employees to isolate, they should not be encouraging them to break isolation."

The No10 statement comes after Paul Scully urged people to continue using the contact tracing app, but stressed it was up to individuals and their employers whether to self-isolate.

“You legally have to isolate if you are contacted by the NHS in terms of contact tracing or if you’re claiming self-isolation payments,” Mr Scully told Nick Ferrari on LBC at breakfast this morning.

“But the app is there to allow you to make informed decisions. It should be there for the employer and employee to have those sorts of conversations.”

The 'pingdemic' has led to thousands being told to isolate in just one week, with official NHS guidance suggesting people "self-isolate immediately" when told to do so.

Another minister in the business department, Lord Grimstone of Boscobel, stressed in a letter to one large employer that the app was only an "advisory tool" and that people were not under any "legal duty."

It has never been a legal requirement to obey the app's instructions, but the NHS guidance still states that people should "self-isolate immediately" when told to.

Read more: 'Pingdemic': NHS Covid app won't be tweaked to be less sensitive, PM confirms

Read more: NHS Covid app 'pingdemic' in numbers: Surge in people being told to self isolate

The PM's U-Turn will have a serious impact on public morale

In response to comments from Mr Scully, Labour Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders said: "The government [is] making it up as they go along. 

"Ministers mix messages, change approach and water down proposals when the public and businesses need clarity and certainty.

"If this is a true change in approach on the app, why didn’t the Prime Minister set this out last night?

"Yet again there is more confusion and incompetence from the heart of government at the expense of public health. They need to get a grip."

It comes after Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak made a u-turn in their decision to isolate, following Sajid Javid testing positive for Covid-19.

The pair initially said they were part of a daily contact testing pilot, which would have allowed them to continue working at Downing Street.

However, the move sparked outrage from the public, arguing that there were double standards for the MPs compared to the rest of the country.

As a result, they agreed to go into isolation, with the Prime Minister carrying out his quarantine at Chequers.