Covid-19: in the United Kingdom, the “pingdemic” slows down activity

Outbursts of joy and hugs in packed nightclubs. Last Monday, the British celebrated the end of health restrictions in the country – also known as “Freedom Day”. But many are once again deprived of an exit. If the spread of the Delta variant puts the British to the test again – the country records an average of 40,000 infections per day – a new epidemic has been created: that of the number of people forced into isolation. A phenomenon that has grown in recent days to such an extent that the media have found a name for it: the “pingdemic”.

In this portmanteau, we find the term “ping” – either the sound of a notification and “demic”, the end of “pandemic”, or “pandemic” in English, as the regional daily recalls. West France. Around 530,000 people in England and Wales received isolation alerts through the NHS Covid-19 tracking app during the first week of July, advising them to self-isolate for up to ten days , reports the British daily The Guardian. A figure which increased by 46% compared to the previous week. Those affected are alerted by a notification from the UK Health Services smartphone app. And in recent weeks, these alerts have multiplied.

In total, 1.73 million Britons were called to self-isolate for ten days – including Prime Minister Boris Johnson. This is a significant proportion in this country which has more than 67 million inhabitants. The British daily adds that schools are also emptying at the end of the school year: more than a million children in England were out of school for reasons related to Covid in the week of July 12 to 16, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Education. And this “pingdemic” phenomenon may well gain ground. Analysis by the BBC earlier this month suggested that 4.5 million people could be asked to self-isolate by August 16, after which fully vaccinated people will no longer be asked to self-isolate.

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A country that is idling

If part of the population is called to isolate themselves, who is left to keep the country going? Indeed, thousands of employees do not have the opportunity to go to their workplace. Consequence: UK business lobby group CBI warned that “crippling staff shortages” could hamper economic recovery. Bars, supermarkets or even car factories … All sectors are concerned. The association of meat producers and transporters reported a lack of manpower. Ditto for supermarkets, the Iceland chain having even been forced to close some of its stores in the country after 1,000 employees were encouraged to isolate themselves, specifies the BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation.

“In fact, we just announced the hiring of 2,000 more people,” his boss, Malcolm Walker, told the BBC. Same story with the CEO of PureGym, Humphrey Cobbold, who has managed to keep its gyms open despite reduced manpower: “In some regions, up to 25% of our staff have been asked to self-isolate “he said, still on the BBC. The “pingdemic” is a real headache for private companies, but also public services. In British streets, waste collection rounds had to be postponed due to lack of personnel.

The obligation to self-isolate lifted for some workers

Faced with these difficulties, the British executive has promised to exempt certain essential workers, such as railway workers, from the obligation to self-isolate for ten days, provided they have received their second dose for at least two weeks or more. test negative. This is already the case since Monday for employees of the public health service (NHS) “in exceptional circumstances”. Enterprise Minister Kwasi Kwarteng told the BBC on Thursday that the list of exempt workers would be published “today”, but that it would be “very limited”.

The phenomenon could also compromise the departures on vacation of many Britons. Some parents fearing that their children are infected with Covid-19 prefer to keep them at home before the start of the summer period. But another question arises: are people who receive a notification legally forced to self-isolate? Indeed, if an individual is legally required to self-isolate for ten days when tested positive, being “pinged” by the NHS application does not entail a legal obligation and is technically only advisory, emphasizes The Guardian.

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Even within the ranks of the executive, confusion reigns. On Tuesday, Business Secretary Paul Scully said it was up to individuals to make informed decisions about whether to self-isolate when notified by the app. But it didn’t take long for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to contradict him on this issue. The latter said it was “crucial” to isolate yourself after receiving a notification. In the UK, telephones have not finished ringing.


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