The Test and Trace app will now be altered in order to ensure fewer people will be asked to self-isolate.
Following wide-spread staff shortages across various industries, the NHS app is now being changed in order to send out less alerts.
In order to be instructed to self-isolate by the app, the person will need to be in close contact with a positive but asymptomatic person two days prior to them inputting a positive result into the app.
Before this change, users of the app would be told to self-isolate if they had been near an individual up to five days before – who then tested positive for COVID-19.
The Department for Health and Social Care expressed that this change was intended to “reduce the disruption that self-isolation can cause for people and businesses while ensuring we’re protecting those most at risk from this virus”.
According to recent data, over half a million people (685,000) were told to self-isolate by the app within a single week.
This has sparked mass staff shortages in various sectors, leading to the Government implementing a daily testing scheme for key workers who test negative but have been asked to self-isolate.
Recent exemptions to the self-isolation policy include frontline workers within the police, fire, Border Force, transport and freight systems services, prisons, waste collections and defence.
Over a thousand testing sites around the country have been set up to allow exempt employees to undergo daily testing.
The newest measure of altering the COVID-19 app is further expected to be another measure which could prevent staff shortages, although the Department for Health and Social Care has insisted that the same number of high-risk contacts will be instructed to self-isolate.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, stated he wanted to “strike the right balance” between reducing disruption and protecting vulnerable members of the public.
However, Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary of Unite, criticised the Government’s approach:
We simply cannot have a situation, for example, where a blastfurnace is shut down because workers are stuck at home, testing negatively daily, but forced to self-isolate.
UK workers must not lose out because the government’s reopening of the economy is incoherent.
Conversely, Emma McClarkin, the Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, welcomed this change:
On average, each pub forced to temporarily close due to staff being pinged costs £9,500 in lost trade per week and our larger venues much, much more at a critical time in their recovery.
On top of changes to the NHS app, more investment is needed for our sector if it is to recover and play a leading role in building back better.