Minister urges people to isolate when pinged ‘even if their wedding's the next day’

21 July 2021, 10:09

Nick Ferrari challenges Home Office minister over ping-demic

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins has urged people to self-isolate when 'pinged' even if they are getting married the following day.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari at breakfast on LBC, the Louth and Horncastle MP encouraged people to quarantine if alerted by the NHS Covid app, as they are five times more likely to contract the virus than those who are not.

Asked whether people should self-isolate if 'pinged' the night before their wedding, Ms Atkins replied: "Oh gosh, the guidance is 'please, you must stay at home'.

"That is a terribly, terribly difficult scenario."

It comes amid a surge in the so-called 'pingdemic', with hundreds of thousands of people quarantining this month alone despite it never being a legal requirement to obey the app's instructions.

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

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

Ping-demic: Nick Ferrari challenges a Home Office minister over app

Nick Ferrari pressed the minister on why events such as the Euros, international cricket matches and the World Snooker Championship can go ahead with full or near-capacity crowds when such a rule is in place that could disrupt weddings.

Ms Atkins told LBC: "In fairness, not if you've been pinged. The person going to the football match (if pinged) the night before would also not be permitted to go."

Ministers announced on Monday that the NHS Covid app 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.

The government's decision came despite hospitality businesses and NHS trusts warning that they are facing staff shortages as large percentages of their workforce are told to self-isolate as case numbers rise.

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

Watch: 'It cost us £30k in a weekend!': Chef explains tough impact of app pings

Minister tells LBC it's up to staff and employers to discuss self-isolation after Covid app 'ping'

Ms Atkins added: "I totally understand the terrible impact this virus has had on us all. Indeed, in my own constituency I've had constituents contact me about funerals.

"The toll of this virus has been horrendous. This is why if we're able to isolate in the way the guidance requires, by mid-August, we plan to remove the self-isolation requirement, and that's really critical for people who are double-vaccinated."

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

Asked why the government is waiting a month until dropping the quarantine measure, the minister acknowledged the country's high infection rates and the fact that around three million 18-30-year-olds have not received a single jab.

"We've got to get jabs into arms to build up the nation's immunity so that we can take that step in mid-August to ensure the people who've been double-vaxxed don't have to self-isolate."

"There's nothing you can do?!" Business Sec confronted over 'pinging'

Recent data revealed that 520,194 people were ordered to self-isolate in the week up to 7 July. This was a 46 per cent increase on the previous week.

As people are normally required to isolate for 10 days, this means significantly more than half a million people were likely to be currently self-isolating due to the app.

One estimate said as many as 1.6m people are currently self-isolating once children and those who actually have Covid are taken into account. Another suggested the figure could even be over two million, calculated on the basis that on average three people are told to self-isolate for every positive case.

The Department for Health and Social Care could not provide an exact total for the number currently self-isolating.

Will the UK be plunged into chaos by NHS app pings?

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for No10 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 business minister Paul Scully told Nick Ferrari 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".

However, he added that "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".

More Nick Ferrari

See more More Nick Ferrari

Chancellor brands Labour plan to tackle small boat crossings 'absolute joke' which will 'encourage more people to come'

Chancellor brands Labour plan to tackle small boat crossings 'absolute joke' which will 'encourage more people to come'

Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick said Conservative voters were "on strike" and needed Rishi Sunak's government to be honest about the mistakes that have been made.

Tory voters are 'on strike' and Sunak needs to be 'honest' to keep them on side, Robert Jenrick says

The UK government is 'deeply concerned' about the assault on the Rafha crossing in Gaza and wants to see a 'credible military plan' from Israel.

UK government 'deeply concerned and need to see credible military plans' after Israeli offensive on Rafah crossing

Met chief Sir Mark Rowley has said that anyone using a 'swastika in the context of the Middle East crisis' will be arrested.

Met police chief pledges to arrest protesters using swastikas at Gaza protests

Sir Mark Rowley said filming interactions with police at protests had become "intrusive".

Filming police at protests is 'physically intrusive' and 'escalates situations', says Met Commissioner

Kemi Badenoch has launched a 'call for input'.

Gender-neutral toilets could lead to ‘schoolgirls getting UTIs because they don't want to share’, minister says

Met police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley spoke on LBC on Wednesday

Female officer’s hand reattached as Met chief reveals horror injuries suffered by police in Hainault sword attack

LBC observed how Scotland Yard manages to police divisive demonstrations in London

'It makes our job incredibly difficult': Police surrounded by cameras on protests as they make ‘on the hoof’ law changes

Nick Ferrari spent the day in the Met Police Operations Control Room

Nick Ferrari goes behind the scenes at the Met Police's massive efforts to keep the peace at heated protests

John Cleese has said he's 'all in favour of content warnings'.

‘I’m all in favour of trigger warnings’, John Cleese tells LBC as he says ‘society has changed’

Two of the Household Cavalry horses are 'in serious condition' and there are concerns they may never fully recover

'Seriously injured' horses undergo emergency operations after London rampage - as one recovers in equine hospital

Two Household Cavalry horses 'in serious condition' amid fears animals may not survive after London rampage

Two Household Cavalry horses 'in serious condition' amid fears animals may not survive after London rampage

This is the moment Nick Ferrari puts a government minister on the spot over the government's new plans to ban smoking.

'When will the Conservatives be banning alcohol?' Nick Ferrari puts minister on the spot after smoking ban vote passes

'I'm ashamed to say Nick, I started smoking when I was 12' Tory MP reveals

Minister who reveals she started smoking at 12 says she's not interested in freedom argument against ban

This guest told LBC he was against Rishi Sunak's smoking ban because 'everybody dies in the end' and the NHS should 'price in' the cost of dealing with sick Brits.

'The NHS is there to make you healthy' guest dismisses smoking ban as 'everybody dies in the end'

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Lord Kim Darroch the former UK National Security Advisor for his assessment of the performance of "the current PM, the man who was PM and the man who wants to be PM"

Rishi Sunak has 'left the pitch free' for Lord Cameron to be Foreign Sec and 'toughen the line on Israel', says former diplomat