Businesses announce more closures ahead of freedom day as ‘pingdemic’ chaos continues

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Watch: Concerns mount over 'pingdemic' as Test and Trace app wreaks havoc

More businesses have announced temporary closures as a growing number of employees across the UK are being forced to self-isolate after being “pinged” by the NHS COVID-19 app.

Thousands of people are being forced to miss work after being notified that they may have come in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

More than half a million alerts were sent out in the week to 7 July, a 46% rise on the previous week and the highest number on record, according to the latest figures.

The prime minister has been warned that the economic recovery could be stalled as millions of people could be pinged by the NHS COVID app over the summer, with infections expected to hit around 100,000 a day.

Read: Johnson and Sunak pull U-turn after refusing to self-isolate despite being 'pinged' by NHS COVID app

Despite this, Boris Johnson's spokesman said on Friday that the app was "working as it is designed to do" amid reports that there are no plans to change its sensitivity.

On Sunday, rail passengers in the north of England have been warned of delays due to shortages of staff.

A message to self-isolate, with one day of required isolation remaining, is displayed on the NHS coronavirus contact tracing app on a mobile phone, in London. Picture date: Thursday July 15, 2021.
A message to self-isolate, with one day of required isolation remaining, is displayed on the NHS coronavirus contact tracing app on a mobile phone, in London. Picture date: Thursday July 15, 2021.

Customers are being advised not to travel on various routes from Sheffield, Leeds, Lincoln, Doncaster and York because of delays.

In an alert issued today, Northern Trains said: “A number of front-line staff have either tested positive for COVID or have had to self-isolate. Due to this, there will be several alterations on some Northern routes today.”

It comes a day after the Metropolitan Line on the Tube in London was closed entirely on Saturday, while other lines faced delays because too many drivers were self-isolating.

Drivers are also being warned of a potential MOT backlog as garages are forced to make mass cancellations due to mechanics being forced to isolate.

 People flock to pubs and bars on Stevenson Square in Manchester.
Pubs and restaurants with outdoor space have been allowed to reopen as lockdown restrictions are eased in the UK. (Photo by Adam Vaughan / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
The closures come ahead of "freedom day". (PA)

Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer bosses reportedly said store hours may have to be reduced as up to one in five supermarket staff are forced into isolation.

Several staff members at the Royal Mail sorting centre in Peterborough were also reportedly pinged by the app this week, prompting concerns that delivery and postal services in the city would be disrupted.

Pubs across the country are also having to close their doors.

Steve Lomas, who runs Suffolk-based pub chain Deben Inns, wrote on Twitter: “Nine staff pinged, nine negative tests over five days and there (sic) still unable to come out of isolation. Business closed. Surely this is preposterous and is certainly unsustainable?”

Watch: Transport services disrupted as staff forced to self-isolate

The Duke of Cumberland pub has also announced closures on their Facebook page, saying: “We have got a number of staff off or self-isolating and we've been trying to keep going over the last couple of weeks on reduced staffing levels.

“Unfortunately two more staff have had to go off today so we will have to close for a few days until the full team is back.”

In Reading, several staff members from the council’s waste team were reportedly forced to self-isolate, meaning residents would not have garden waste collected for at least two weeks.

The National Trust also announced that one of its sites is having to close due to staff shortages caused by isolation.

Shutting the Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire, the trust said: 'Due partly to some staff self-isolating and awaiting results, the house will be temporarily closed on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 July.”

The British Meat Processors Association said earlier this week that companies may be forced to shut down production lines if more workers are forced to isolate.

Car-makers Rolls-Royce and Nissan also warned that their manufacturing plants faced major disruption due to the number of people being told to self-isolate by the app.

File photo dated 13/10/20 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak who will both be taking part in a daily contact testing pilot which allows them to continue to work. Issue date: Sunday July 18, 2021.
On Sunday, the prime minister, as well as Rishi Sunak, faced severe criticism after announcing that they would not be self-isolating after coming in contact with Sajid Javid who had tested positive. (PA)

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.

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.

On Sunday, the prime minister, as well as Rishi Sunak, faced severe criticism after announcing that they would not be self-isolating after coming in contact with Sajid Javid, who had tested positive.

Within three hours, they had pulled a full U-turn after facing severe criticism from MPs and health experts.

Watch: Professor discusses problem with NHS COVID app

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