As new Covid cases in the UK reach the 43,000 mark, there's also plenty of discussion taking place about another pandemic, or rather a 'pingdemic' – in relation to the NHS COVID-19 'track and trace' app. The number of people in England and Wales who have received pings from the app, instructing them to self-isolate, hit a record 618,903 last week.
Now, couples are being warned that if they receive a ping from the app, they must cancel their wedding. This comes as earlier this week on 'Freedom Day', the rules around weddings were relaxed, meaning the 'guest-list of no more than 30' requirement was scrapped.
While appearing on LBC, Vicky Atkins, the Home Office minister was questioned about what a future bride or groom ought to do if they are "pinged the night before [their] wedding". Acknowledging that it would be a very difficult situation, Atkins replied, "Oh gosh. The guidance is 'please, you must stay at home'. That is a terribly, terribly difficult scenario."
Following this (and making the government's stance pretty clear), an official spokesman for the Prime Minister later added: "Yes, we recognise that would be a difficult situation for anyone, but the app is carrying out an important function.
"One in three people contacted either by Test and Trace or the app go on to develop coronavirus. That demonstrates the importance of isolating people when asked to do so."
This also implies that if a bride or groom is pinged on the literal morning of their wedding, maybe even on their journey to the venue, then the entire event must be called off.
Whilst it is, of course, of the upmost importance that we all continue to play our part in stopping the spread of the virus - wearing face masks is still very heavily encouraged, as is taking up the vaccine - there's a lot of division surrounding the NHS app at this time.
Professor Tim Spector, a leading epidemiologist at King's College (and Principal Investigator of the ZOE COVID symptom study) has said the NHS COVID app is no longer useful. "People working in the NHS have been told to delete it... I don't think the app saying someone might have passed [you] by in a supermarket is actually that useful any more," he said during a Sky News appearance. "Employers have got to use common sense in this. It seems to be overkill."
Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, also confirmed that the government are "very concerned" about the number of people being pinged by the app, during a recent television appearance. He added that the situation is being monitored, after leading retailers said the number of staff that are now having to stay home, following an app alert, is having a knock-on effect. Social media users have been sharing photographs of empty shelves in supermarkets, too.
Speaking yesterday via Zoom, Boris Johnson (who is also currently self-isolating) urged the public to continue to abide by self-isolating guidelines until 16 August. After that, he advised that the rules would change yet again to "a system based on contact testing, rather than contact isolation."
He added, "Until then, I must remind everybody that isolation is a vital tool in our defence against the disease."
The bottom line? If you're due to get married soon, you might want to think about self-isolating in the run-up to your wedding... just to be on the safe side.
You Might Also Like