A record 689,313 people in Inghilterra and Wales were contacted by the NHS Covid app and asked to self-isolate in the week to 12 luglio, underlining the widespread disruption caused by surging case rates.
Official data from the app showed an 11.4% increase in the number of people “pinged” over the previous week.
Separate figures published by NHS test and trace showed that 597,260 people in England were identified as coming into close contact with someone who had tested positive in the same week – the highest since January when England was in lockdown.
Ministers have been scrambling to set up emergency testing sites at workplaces and have exempted some critical workers in certain sectors from quarantine to try to minimise the impact of the “pingdemic”.
With many sectors suffering shortages of staff, business groups and Tory backbenchers had been urging the government to bring forward the 16 August date on which adults who have received two vaccine doses can take a test instead of quarantining.
But the prime minister has said that date is now “nailed on”. Children will also be exempted from the legal requirement to quarantine if they are identified as close contacts.
Both adults and children will be advised to take PCR tests. If the result is negative, they can go about their lives as normal.
The self-isolation data, published on Thursday, covers a period before a recent run of declines in new Covid cases, with new positive tests almost halving. Downing Street will be watching the evolution of new cases closely over the coming days, with hopes rising that the third wave may be starting to peak.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said on Wednesday that “no one really knows” how the pandemic will progress from here.
“The truth is, when it comes to case numbers no one really knows where they are going to go next," Egli ha detto. “I hope that the falls that we’re seeing now are sustained. That’s of course what I want to see. But we’ve already seen with the Delta variant, a new variant that emerged over the last year, that’s more infectious than the previous one, that things can change.
Javid and Boris Johnson were widely criticised for pressing ahead with the 19 July reopening, with almost all restrictions lifted, in the face of surging cases. Both were in self-isolation themselves, Javid with confirmed Covid, on the day.
A spokesperson for Johnson said the prime minister “sympathises” with companies whose workers were being forced to isolate and appreciated the impact it was having on the economy.
tuttavia, they suggested that pleas for more employees to be included on the critical workers list of professions would not be taken up.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders had urged the government to exempt those working in car making, after the number of vehicles built plummeted to its lowest level since 1953 – barring 2020 – something it blamed on the “pingdemic”.