How many people are actually getting pinged by the NHS COVID app?

·4 min read
Businesses have warned if cases reach 100,000 a day then millions could be told to self-isolate. (Getty)
Businesses have warned if cases reach 100,000 a day then millions could be told to self-isolate. (Getty)

Boris Johnson has been warned that millions of people could be “pinged” by the NHS COVID app or ordered to self-isolate by Test and Trace over the summer, with infections expected to hit around 100,000 a day.

Most of England’s remaining lockdown restrictions will end if the government proceeds with "Freedom Day" on July 19, but changes to self-isolation rules will not come in for another four weeks.

Fears millions could be asked to self-isolate as cases soar over summer as restrictions are eased could lead to chaos for businesses and hospitality, but just how many people are getting pinged by the app?

At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Sir Keir Starmer said the country faced a "summer of chaos".

Watch: Starmer says England is heading for summer of chaos

He also highlighted a rise in people deleting the COVID app so they so could avoid being told to self-isolate if they were near someone who tested positive.

Businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, have reacted with horror to the gap in time between the end of restrictions in England on 19 July and the end of self-isolation rules on 16 August for the double jabbed and under-18s.

On Thursday, the UK Health Security Agency told MPs the app was currently being modified to try and reduce the amount people are pinged in order to avoid the number of people being told to self-isolate spiralling.

How many people are actually being pinged by the app?

Almost three million people have been pinged by the COVID app in England. (Yahoo)
Almost three million people have been pinged by the COVID app in England. (Yahoo)

Almost three million pings have now been sent to people by the NHS app in England informing them they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID and they must self-isolate.

As the above chart shows, that number has increased sharply in recent weeks as the number of infections has spread with more than 350,000 people being asked to isolated in the final week of June.

Being told to self-isolate by the app is currently not legally enforceable, unlike if you are told to self-isolate by an employee of NHS Track and Trace.

Despite this, all official guidance does encourage people to follow the rules and many people do so.

The rise in the number of pings sent out since restrictions were eased in May indicates they may rise even faster once more restrictions are lifted.

How many people are using it?

(Yahoo)
App downloads soared in the first few weeks and have risen steadily since then. (Yahoo)
(Yahoo)
The app has been downloaded just over 26 million times in England. (Yahoo)

Despite fears people are deleting the app to avoid being pinged the number of people downloading the app is continuing to rise.

The app was downloaded almost 20 million times when it was released and numbers have steadily risen to just over 26 million since then.

The Department of Health does not provide figures for the number of people deleting the app or disabling the contact tracing function.

The weekly figures also do not indicate how many people might be redownloading the app after deleting it to avoid being told to self-isolate.

Contact tracing alerts hit record high

The number of people being pinged by the app has soared in recent weeks.(Yahoo)
The number of people being pinged by the app has soared in recent weeks. (Yahoo)

Recent weeks have broken the records set in January during the height of the pandemic for the number of pings being sent out during the app.

Although cases were much higher than they are now in January the country was in lockdown over winter and people were less able to go out and interact with others.

In March, as cases fell, the numbers pinged by the app fell to below 20,000 per week. But, as the chart above shows, those numbers started to spike at the start of June and have shown no sign of slowing down.

Just over 350,000 people were pinged in the final week of June - an increase of more than 60% on the previous seven days - and since then cases have continued to rise sharply so it is expected that number will only increase.

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