NHS staff could skip self-isolation when ‘pinged’ by the Covid app

NHS workers in a hospital ward

It would mean more staff are free to work in hospitals as cases rise sharply (Picture: Getty Images)

NHS workers could soon be exempt from self-isolating if traced as a Covid contact, in a bid to stave off a shortage of staff.

Under current plans, anyone who is fully vaccinated will be able to avoid staying at home if they get a ping from the test and trace app after August 16.

But yesterday Downing Street said it was considering bringing the exemption forward for NHS staff, so more people are free to work as cases rise sharply.

Leaders have warned of the significant backlog faced by the health service, which will only be intensified by staff having to stay at home.

On Thursday Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said staff levels were being hit because of staff self-isolating.

And when asked yesterday if there could be a specific exemption for NHS staff, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman, said: ‘It’s something we’re looking at ahead of Step 4, but we would obviously need to set out any updates in the usual way.’

The sensitivity of the NHS test and trace app could be tweaked so fewer people recieve the dreaded ‘ping’ (Picture: Getty Images/AFP)

The number of exposure alerts sent to users of the app in England soared by more than 60% in a week, according to the latest contact tracing figures.
And it has led to a plea for the public not to delete the app.

The No 10 spokesman said the app had been an ‘important tool’ in breaking the chain of transmission of coronavirus. He added: ‘The Prime Minister has been clear that he continues to use it.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the sensitivity of the app is being kept under constant review and that it could possibly be tweaked ‘to be suitable to the circumstances of the time’.

But Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow health minister, said: ‘It is hard to square this plan with the more transmissible Delta variant, now is not the time to be taking the batteries out of the smoke alarm.’

It comes amid further fears over the rising number of cases. As of 9am yesterday there had been a further 35,707 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the highest daily increase since January 22.

A further 29 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, bringing the UK total to 128,365.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 153,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Elsewhere, the latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) show cases of the dominant Delta variant rose by a third in the past week.

A total of 216,249 confirmed and probable cases of that variant, first identified in India and which now accounts for approximately 99% of confirmed cases of coronavirus across the UK – have been identified in the four nations.

Of these, 180,643 have been in England, 28,559 in Scotland, 3,666 in Wales and 3,381 in Northern Ireland.

It remains the case that the majority of people being admitted to hospital in England with the Delta variant are unvaccinated, according to the PHE figures.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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