NEIGHBOURS are being forced into isolation – because the NHS Test and Trace app is ‘pinging’ people through walls.
A record half a million people in England were forced to stay at home after getting Covid alerts in the first week of July alone.
And with businesses, schools and transport services brought to a standstill, it’s been claimed there’s a ‘pingdemic’ caused by the overly-sensitive app.
Some of those contacted by the app were forced to self-isolate for 10 days despite never having come into face-to-face contact with an infected person, the Telegraph reports.
That’s because the Bluetooth signal used is strong enough to penetrate walls – meaning neighbours are sending each other alerts by accident, source told the publication.
And this morning, even the former chair of the ethics advisory board for the app says officials “need to think about the consequences of being pinged”.
Sir Jonathan Montgomery told LBC: “When the app was designed, we didn’t have the ability to reliably home test, we didn’t have very many people jabbed, and the big worrying thing about this virus is that you can pass it on before you know you have it.
“So, I wouldn’t be changing the pinging but I would be changing the consequences of being pinged.”
It comes as:
The strength of the signal was reportedly raised as a concern when the tech was initially built.
And a review is under way, although Whitehall sources say any changes won’t be made for weeks.
As the number of people testing positive every day in the UK surges, there are fears millions could be forced into unnecessary isolation.
One source told the paper neighbours who share walls are being alerted.
“We are hearing of anecdotal cases and we do know that it is possible for the signal to travel through walls, although it is weakened,” they said.
“The app has been calibrated to try to avoid that happening, but we are reviewing the issue of notifications carefully.”
🔵 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
Hundreds of people have taken to social media to say they’ve been ‘pinged’ – despite not leaving their homes. One carer had to cancel her dad’s cancer appointment after two neighbours tested positive for Covid.
And Dr Fiona Sampson, a senior research fellow in emergency and urgent care at the University of Sheffield, said her partner got an alert – despite not leaving the house on the day of the contact.
She said: “We later realised he had been working with his phone on the table, less than two metres away from our neighbour.”
It was revealed yesterday that 530,126 alerts were sent in the most recent week – up a whopping 46 per cent on the week before.
HALF A MILLION FORCED TO ISOLATE
The number is more than 10 times as many as in the week to June 2. In the final week of April, only 39,875 close contacts were identified.
One in five hospitality and retail workers are self-isolating, while NHS hospitals are struggling with up 25 per cent of their staff off.
Bus and train services are also delayed by shortages, while filming of the second series of steamy bonkbuster Bridgerton ground to a halt after a member of the production team tested positive for Covid.
The entire cast and crew have now been tested at Wrotham Hall, an 18th century pile in Hertfordshire.
And anyone who came into contact with the infected person has gone into isolation.
Meanwhile, in some areas, residents have been warned there aren’t enough people to get their bins – with Merseyside locals told there’ll be no collections until August.
OFFICIALS ADMIT ‘CONCERN’
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrik said the Government told the LBC Radio: “We’re concerned about absences as a result of being pinged, for example.
“That’s one of the reasons why we do need a more proportionate approach.”
Today on Good Morning Britain, Kate Garraway joked the situation was a “bit of a pickle” – and said ‘freedom day’ “might be under threat from one of the things supposed to keep us safe”.
“More people are having Covid, more people are getting pinged – it should be a sign it’s working but actually it’s breaking the system,” she said.
Some 19 per cent of adults have removed the NHS app from their phones, and 20 per cent say they’ll do so after most Covid restrictions lift on July 19.
A Government spokesman said: “There is no issue with the app tracing close contacts through walls.
“The NHS COVID-19 app has been downloaded more than 26million times, saved thousands of lives and stopped hundreds of thousands of cases by doing exactly what it is designed to do – informing close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 they are at risk and advising them to isolate.
“In the context of rising cases it is vital people are aware of their personal risk so they can make informed decisions on their behaviour to protect those around them.”