'Pingdemic': One in three Brits either abusing or deleting NHS Covid app - survey

20 July 2021, 15:36 | Updated: 20 July 2021, 18:42

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

One in three Brits are either abusing or have deleted the NHS Covid app entirely amid a 'pingdemic' surge, a YouGov survey has found.

It comes after No10 was forced into reminding people it is still "crucial" to self-isolate if 'pinged' as a contact by the NHS Covid-19 app.

Speaking on LBC earlier on Tuesday, business minister Paul Scully also urged Brits to keep using the contact tracing app but stressed it was up to individuals and their employers whether to self-isolate.

However, the latest YouGov data suggests a significant portion of the population are ignoring the government's advice.

Read more: No10 says people should isolate if 'pinged' after minister speaks to LBC

Read more: Over a million kids missed school last week for Covid-related reasons

It found that only 22 per cent of online Brits have the app and are using it correctly, while more than one-third have the app, but are abusing it, or have already deleted it.

Two in five never downloaded the software in the first place.

Exactly one in 10 online Brits have deleted the app entirely, with that number rising to 17 per cent among 18-24-year-olds.

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In that age group, the majority are abusing the app or have deleted it entirely, whereas just nine per cent have it and are using it correctly

More than three in 10 have never downloaded it.

YouGov also found that more than a third of those who have installed the software have deliberately avoided using it to check-in at a venue.

Nearly one-fifth said they have done so "many times". A similar number have turned off the contact tracing feature, which uses Bluetooth.

A spokeswoman for Number 10 said quarantining was "crucial" to prevent the spread of coronavirus, 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."

Her comments came after Mr Scully told Nick Ferrari on LBC at breakfast that "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".

He added: “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 hundreds of thousands being told to isolate in just one week, with official NHS guidance suggesting people "self-isolate immediately" when told to do so.

It has never been a legal requirement to obey the app's instructions.

Meanwhile, the government announced on Monday that it will not be tweaked to be made less sensitive, despite repeatedly insisting over the past weeks that it needs to be amended to combat the number of people being forced into self-isolation.