Posted: 16.07.21 at 13:41 by Rory Poulter
The number of people ‘pinged’ by the Covid-19 app across Richmond borough has more than doubled in two weeks amid a sharp rise in infections, new data shows.
2,253 people in Richmond upon Thames were contacted through the NHS Test & Trace app and told to self-isolate in the week ending July 7.
This figure was up by 44.6% on the week before (June 30), when 1,558 were contacted, and by 141% on the 934 people contacted in the week ending June 23.
The situation across Richmond, Twickenham, Teddington and Kew mirrors a pattern seen across the UK ahead of 'Freedom Day' on Monday 19 July, when most legal restrictions will be removed.
On the face of it, this increase in the number of people being pinged is likely to rise even more quickly next week and through into August.
For example, in recent weeks a number of streets in the borough have seen their rubbish bin collections missed due to staff absence which is understood to be at least partly caused by the fact some workers are self-isolating.
This is not just a local problem, with bins reportedly going uncollected across the UK due to isolating workers.
As it stands, even people who have been double vaccinated and tested negative for the virus are required to self-isolate for up to 10 days.
This will remain the case until August 16 , although the government is under pressure to change this.
But others defended the government's approach including Solicitor General Lucy Frazer .
She told Sky news: “In addition to the changes in mid-August, the Government is also carrying out a number of pilots to see whether instead of isolating when you get pinged, you could take a test.
“The Government is looking at this very carefully, recognising the significant impact this is having on businesses.”
The figures on the number of people in Richmond pinged by the NHS Covid19-app can be found on the app's statistics website HERE
They also show that the number of people in the borough who reported a positive test on the app was 187 in the week ending July 7.
This is up from 157 the week before and 98 in the week ending June 23.
One of the people caught up in the ‘pingdemic’ is award-winning TV journalist John Stapleton .
Stapleton, a long-term Twickenham resident, has only just come out of 10 days of self-isolation.
He told the BBC News channel papers review yesterday (15 July) that he is aware of some people deleting the app from their smartphones for fear of being pinged and required to quarantine.
"I have been isolating for several days, it is pretty boring," he said.
"I am luckier than most as I have a garden to walk around, but what is it like being stuck in flat, particularly with two kids who want to play and run around heaven only knows. It’s tough."
Mr Stapleton, who has been double-jabbed and had a negative test, added: "Obviously, the app is well intentioned, it is in our best interests that we have it.
"But when it is creating as many pings as it does at the moment, you have to say there must be another way.
"The forecast is that by August we may have as many as 100,000 infections per day.
"If those 100,000 have been in touch with, say, half a dozen people each, which is quite likely, you are looking at possibly 3.5m people a week who are going to be isolated in their own homes. The impact will be devastating."
However, scientists have defended the app saying it is working as intended and has averted thousands of Covid cases.
Instead they say that surge in people being contacted is due to a rise in cases, with daily infection rates climbing to over 50,000 today.
Richmond Borough Council leader, Gareth Roberts, recently asked residents to continue to take precautions after Monday 19 July because infections with the Delta variant of coronavirus are rising sharply.
In a piece on the Richmond Council website Councillor Roberts said: "The number of cases in Richmond upon Thames are rocketing. There are currently around 400 people in the borough who have COVID-19.
"And, we are hearing from our local hospital that there are patients with the virus being admitted.
"Whilst the hospital numbers remain low, it would be foolish to not continue to be careful. If not for ourselves, but for those around us.
"Similarly to all other businesses, we are currently reviewing the safety measures in our own services and are considering how we will continue to keep both our staff and residents safe, particularly whilst Covid rampages through the borough."
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