UK Covid live news: minister stresses people pinged by NHS app can choose not to isolate

Good morning. Business leaders have become increasingly concerned about the so-called “pingdemic” caused by increasing numbers of people being told to isolate because they have been in contact with someone testing positive. Last night Boris Johnson said that critical workers would be exempt, and would be allowed to use regular testing instead provided they are fully vaccinated. (We are due to get the list today saying who will count as a critical worker.) But this morning Paul Scully, the business minister, offered an alternative solution; you can always ignore a ping from the NHS Covid app, he pointed out.

Scully was able to say this because, while an instruction to isolate from NHS test and trace is a legal requirement, a ping from the app is just advisory. This was not a distinction that was widely advertised when the app was launched, but ministers now seem keen to highlight it.

Scully told Times Radio:

It’s important to understand the rules. You have to legally isolate if you are on the … contacted by test and trace, or if you’re trying to claim isolation payments.

The app is there to give … to allow you to make informed decisions. And I think by backing out of mandating a lot of things, we’re encouraging people to really get the data in their own hands to be able to make decisions on what’s best for them, whether they’re employer or an employee.

Asked whether this meant people should or should not self-isolate if pinged, Scully replied: “We want to encourage people to still use the app to be able to do the right thing, because we estimate it saves around 8,000 lives.” But he said it was “up to individuals and employers”.

As the Times’ Steven Swinford reports, Scully’s fellow business minister, Lord Grimstone, has also been making this point in a letter to employers.

Steven Swinford


Ministers have written to major manufacturers emphasising that staff are not legally obliged to isolate if pinged by app

Lord Grimstone, investment minister, told one large employer that app was only an ‘advisory tool’ and that people were not under any ‘legal duty’

July 20, 2021

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.

9.30am: The ONS publishes its latest weekly death figures for England and Wales.

10.30am: Lord Bethell, the health minister, gives evidence to the Commons health committee about the NHS patient data sharing scheme.

10.45am: Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, gives evidence to the Commons business committee about the steel industry and domestic heating.

11.30am: Downing Street holds its daily lobby briefing.

11.30am: Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, gives a speech to the Centre for Social Justice.

12pm: The Department for Education publishes school attendance figures.

12.30pm: A Foreign Office minister responds to a Commons urgent question about the Chinese state-backed Microsoft Exchange hack.

Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently and that is likely to be the case today. For more coronavirus developments, do follow our global Covid live blog.

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