What is 'pingdemic'? Meaning of UK self isolation term amid Covid pandemic - what it means to be 'pinged'

Concerns are continuing to grow about the number of people being told to self-isolate after receiving ‘ping’ notification

Thousands of people across the country have been ‘pinged’ by NHS Test and Trace, notifying them that they need to self-isolate after being in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

In what has now been dubbed as the ‘pingdemic’, many people are finding themselves in 10-day isolation after being identified as a close contact, with rules regarding this not changing until August.

But what is the ‘pingdemic’ and when do close contact rules change?

Concerns are continuing to grow about the number of people being told to self-isolate (Photo: Shutterstock)

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the ‘pingdemic’?

In the week up to 7 July, a total of 520,194 self-isolation alerts were sent to app users, which was up 46% on the previous week.

Concerns are now continuing to grow about the number of people being told to self-isolate, especially with almost all of the legal Covid restrictions in England having now been lifted.

At least half a dozen industry bodies from across the healthcare, transport, retail, and manufacturing sectors have warned of a potentially concerning situation in which staff shortages caused by the alerts from the NHS Test and Trace app may cause widespread business disruption.

This comes as some companies are reportedly missing 20% of their workers, with union Unite warning that factories across the UK are in danger of closing down as a result of employees being "pinged" by the app.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently self-isolating after being “pinged” by Test and Trace following a meeting with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who has tested positive for Covid.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak – who also met Mr Javid on Friday (16 July) – initially tried to get round the self-isolation requirement by saying they would join a workplace testing scheme.

However, after accusations of hypocrisy they both decided that they would instead self-isolate for 10 days.

In a video statement posted on his Twitter feed, Mr Johnson said they had “briefly” looked at joining the daily contact testing scheme.

However, he added: “I think it is far more important that everybody sticks to the same rules and that’s why I’m going to be self-isolating until July 26.

“I know how frustrating it all is but I really do urge everybody to stick with the programme and take the appropriate course action when you are asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.”

When will self-isolation rules change?

In England, self-isolation rules are set to change from 16 August 2021 – though there have been calls for this to be brought forward.

This will mean that if you are fully vaccinated you will no longer have to self-isolate if a close contact tests positive.

If you are identified by NHS Test and Trace, you will be asked if you are fully vaccinated.

If so, you will be advised to take one PCR test to make sure you haven't been infected.

If you do test positive for Covid, then you will still need to self-isolate.

Similar rules are due to come into force in Scotland from 9 August 2021 and in Wales from 7 August 2021.