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Some-ping needed fixing to mend Test and Trace chaos

Published 27 July 2021

Many employees may have pondered the line from the Clash song ‘should I stay or should I go’ when at home and considering attending work after being pinged by the NHS Test and Trace App. 

The guidance, however, has always been clear in that you should self-isolate if told to do so by the app. 

But new rules have now been introduced on self-isolation for some employees. 

Workers in key industries such as food production and supply, energy and waste can now avoid having to stay at home in certain circumstances. 

It comes after reports that the number of people being ordered to self-isolate was causing major problems and chaos for some employers. 

The NHS app alerts people to stay at home for up to 10 days when their phone registers it has been in close contact with the phone of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) (1) 

More than 600,000 people were ordered to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app in the week to July 14 (2) 

The ‘pingdemic’ as it has been dubbed was said to pose a real threat to food and fuel supplies.  

Supermarkets had warned that the rising number of retail workers being forced to self-isolate was beginning to affect the availability of some products (3) 

BP said it had experienced fuel supply issues at some of its sites due to an industry-wide driver shortage. A handful of sites had to close temporarily although the issue was resolved within a day (4) 

This led to calls from business leaders for quarantine restrictions to be relaxed. 

NHS guidance on what to do if you have to self-isolate is, stay at home and do not (5):  

  • go to work, school or public places – work from home if you can 
  • go on public transport or use taxis 
  • go out to get food and medicine – order it online or by phone, or ask someone to bring it to your home 
  • have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for people providing essential care 
  • go out to exercise – exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one 

But given the disruption caused by the number of employees being forced to self-isolate the government has had to review the guidance and make exemptions for workers in a number of key industries.  

Those covered will be able to leave their Covid-19 isolation to travel to work and do their jobs after a negative daily test but must remain at home otherwise and go straight into quarantine if they receive a positive result. 

The new rule covers the following 16 sectors (6)

  • energy 
  • civil nuclear 
  • digital infrastructure 
  • food production and supply 
  • waste 
  • water 
  • veterinary medicines 
  • essential chemicals 
  • essential transport 
  • medicines 
  • medical devices 
  • clinical consumable supplies 
  • emergency services 
  • border control 
  • essential defence 
  • local government 

Frontline NHS and social care workers had already been granted exemptions from self-isolation ‘in exceptional circumstances’ to alleviate pressure on hospitals. 

For those sectors not included in the list, the rules on self-isolation remain as they are if an employee is pinged by the NHS app (7) 

Employers should call the Self-Isolation Service Hub on 020 3743 6715 as soon as they are made aware that any of their workers have tested positive. 

The employer will need to provide the 8-digit NHS Test and Trace Account ID (sometimes referred to as a CTAS number) of the person who tested positive, alongside the names of co-workers identified as close contacts.  

This will ensure that all workplace contacts are registered with NHS Test and Trace and can receive the necessary public health advice, including the support available to help people to self-isolate. 

It is an offence for an employer, not covered by the new exemption, to allow a worker to attend the workplace if it is aware that the worker has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and received a notification to self-isolate from NHS Test and Trace. 

References: 

(1) NHS app alerts people to stay at home for up to 10 days [Internet] https://covid19.nhs.uk [Cited 26.7.21] https://covid19.nhs.uk/what-the-app-does.html 

(2) More than 600,000 people were ordered to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app in the week to July 14 [Internet] www.standard.co.uk [Cited 26.7.21] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/600000-pinged-nhs-tracing-app-Covid-pingdemic-b947118.html 

(3) Supermarkets had warned that the rising number of retail workers being forced to self-isolate [Internet] www.bbc.co.uk [Cited 26.7.21] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57924264 

(4) BP said it had experienced fuel supply issues at some of its sites due to an industry-wide driver shortage [Internet] uk.finance.yahoo.com [Cited 26.7.21] https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/u-ks-pingdemic-hits-petrol-stations-120003448.html 

(5) What can you do if you are self-isolating [Internet] www.nhs.uk [Cited 26.7.21] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-Covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/when-to-self-isolate-and-what-to-do/ 

(6) The new self-isolation rule for 16 sectors [Internet] https://news.sky.com [Cited 26.7.21] https://news.sky.com/story/Covid-19-list-of-sectors-where-workers-may-be-exempt-from-isolation-revealed-12361169 

(7) Rules on self-isolation [Internet] https://www.gov.uk [Cited 26.7.21] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-workplace-guidance 

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Tel: 0333 772 0611 

A reputation built on success

For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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