Some double-jabbed NHS staff can avoid self-isolating even if pinged by app

19 July 2021, 07:30

NHS staff could avoid quarantine under new plans
NHS staff could avoid quarantine under new plans. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Fully-vaccinated frontline NHS staff will be allowed to keep working even if they get pinged by the Covid app if staff shortages worsen.

The Government's move comes amid worries about the so-called "pingdemic" – large numbers of alerts sent out by the app forcing people into quarantine.

There are fears businesses will begin to struggle and people's lives will be put on hold as England's easing of restrictions leads to more cases – and a greater likelihood that people will become a close contact of a Covid case and get an alert.

Read more: NHS Covid app sends half a million alerts in a week amid staff shortage fears

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

Those concerns also apply to the health system, with fears that rising numbers of absent staff who are isolating will put unsustainable pressure on services.

The Department of Health and Social Care said staff will only become exempt if an absence of staff could lead to a "significant risk of harm".

Anyone contacted by NHS Test and Trace who are told to quarantine because they came into contact with a Covid case will still have to provide a negative PCR test before they return to work, and then they will need to take lateral flow tests every day for at least a week.

Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis by a health or social care organisation's management, and the risk of onward transmission must be taken into account.

Read more: Pub boss: People are turning off NHS app to avoid being pinged

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who is isolating after testing positive for Covid, said: "As we learn to live with this virus, it's important that we ensure frontline staff can keep providing the best possible care and support to people up and down the country.

"These new rules will fortify our collective defences against this awful virus, by allowing fully vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff to continue to work when needed."

There have been reports that people are starting to switch the app off so they avoid being pinged.

UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries previously said the app could be tuned and work to that effect is under way.

On Monday, she said: "With the number of cases continuing to rise, it is imperative that we do everything we can to manage this virus and support our NHS and social care services under the strain of increased demand and sustained pressure.

"We have provided specific guidance to NHS and social care settings for circumstances where there is a significant risk to health or safety resulting from staff absence or a critical service cannot run."