Do I have to self-isolate if pinged by NHS App? UK quarantine rules if contacted by Test and Trace service

If you are contacted by NHS test and trace, you are legally obliged to isolate – but the same is not applicable if pinged by the NHS Covid app

More than 600,000 people were ‘pinged’ by Test and Trace in the week before ‘Freedom Day, across England and Wales.

The ping can be sent to anyone who has downloaded and registered on the NHS app, and means they need to self isolate as they have come into contact with someone with Covid.

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Data shows 618,903 alerts were sent - a 17 percent rise from the previous week, forcing many essential workers to quarantine.

The NHS test and trace app tells you if you legally need to self isolate (Picture: Getty Images)

However, there are due to be new rules introduced in the coming days which could see some groups dodge the need to self-isolate.

So, what are the rules if you are pinged - and who is exempt from quarantine? This is what we know so far.

What is the ‘pingdemic’ and what issues is it causing?

The NHS test and trace app pings registered devices if the owner of the device has come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Coronavirus.

Just one in five Brits have the NHS Covid app (Picture: JPI Media)

The app uses Bluetooth technology, as well as a special algorithm to determine when a phone has been within two metres of an infected person’s phone for 15 minutes or more.

Depending on how long you have been exposed to the virus, you will be advised to isolate for up to 10 days.

In the days running up to 19 July, dubbed ‘freedom day’, more than 500,000 people were pinged in a single day at some stages.

The issue comes in that people may not have necessarily contracted coronavirus by merely being in the same vicinity as someone who does have the virus.

In venues such as supermarkets and hospitals, the likelihood of a staff member being in the same space as someone who has Covid is amplified, leading to more than 10 percent of the workforce being forced to self-isolate in recent weeks.

As such, the term ‘pingdemic’ has been coined and the medical and retail sector have called for workers to be exempt from having to isolate, should they test negative for the virus.

Who has to self-isolate if pinged?

Despite calls on the government to make key and critical workers exempt from the test and trace rules, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has stressed that people should still self-isolate.

At present, only NHS staff do not need to isolate themselves if they have been contacted but test negative for the virus.

The government is now looking into adding other worker groups to the exempt list, but these groups will still need to refrain from socialising if pinged and can only travel to work and home again.

Am I legally obliged to isolate if contacted by the NHS app?

Currently, if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace then you must isolate, failing to do so is illegal.

However, if you are not contacted by Test and Trace and only pinged by the NHS Covid app then there is no requirement to self-isolate but it is advised that you do so.

The government has stressed that “isolation remains the most important action people can take to stop the spread of the virus,” adding: “it is crucial people isolate when they are told to do so, either by NHS Test and Trace or by the NHS covid app”

Legal requirements if you have been contacted by Test and Trace

Under the current rules, everyone other than NHS workers must self-isolate if:

You have any symptoms of Covid-19 (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste) You’ve tested positive for Covid-19 Someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive Someone in your childcare or support bubble has symptoms and you’ve been in close contact with them since their symptoms started, or during the 48 hours before they started Someone in your childcare or support bubble tested positive and you’ve been in close contact with them since they had the test, or in the 48 hours before their test You’ve been told you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive by NHS Test and Trace

Self isolation lasts for 10 days from either the day your symptoms began or the day you tested positive (if you did not have symptoms). If you have been contacted by Trace and Trace, your ten day quarantine period begins on that day.