Downing Street has said it is “crucial” that people self-isolate after receiving an alert from the NHS Covid-19 app.
No 10 moved to clear confusion after business minister Paul Scully said it was a decision for individuals and employers whether they should isolate after a “ping” from the app.
In the first week of July, more than half a million people were told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app with that number continuing to rise.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises ministers, said: “Contact tracing and self-isolation play an important role in stopping cases getting out of control and preventing deaths.
“It’s important we maintain these measures as stringently as we can.”
Shadow health minister Justin Madders accused the Government of “making it up as they go along”.
“Ministers mix messages, change approach and water down proposals when the public and businesses need clarity and certainty,” the Labour MP said.
With confusion over whether it is a legal requirement to self-isolate after being pinged her is everything you need to know.
Do I legally have to isolate if I have been contacted by the app?
It has never been a legal requirement to obey the app’s instructions, the official NHS guidance has been that people should “self-isolate immediately” when told to.
A No 10 spokeswoman said: “Isolation remains the most important action people can take to stop the spread of the virus.
“Given the risk of having and spreading the virus when people have been in contact with someone with Covid, it is crucial people isolate when they are told to do so, either by NHS Test and Trace or by the NHS Covid app.
“Businesses should be supporting employees to isolate, they should not be encouraging them to break isolation.”
So, the app is only advisory, although it is strongly recommended that you self-isolate when told to do so, there is no legal requirement for people to follow its guidance.
However, if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace you are legally obliged to self-isolate when told to do so.
How does the app work?
The NHS Covid-19 app uses Bluetooth technology which will determine whether a phone has been within close proximity to another phone using the app for more than 15 minutes.
The app then alerts users when their phone registers that it has been in close contact with the phone of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
If you use the Covid-19 app and you have been told to self-isolate it will provide a countdown of days until it is safe for you to end your period of isolation.
Bear in mind, the time period given by the app is only advisory, while if Test and Trace has told you to isolate you are legally obliged to do so.
When do I have to self-isolate?
Under current rules set out by the government there are six scenarios which would require you to self-isolate.
- 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 have tested positive for Covid-19
- Someone you live with has symptoms or has tested positive
- Someone in your childcare or support bubble has symptoms and you have 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 have been in close contact with them since they had the test, or in the 48 hours before their test
- You have been told you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive by NHS Test and Trace
If you test positive for the virus you will be required to self-isolate for the next 10 full days.
If you do not have symptoms or test positive but you have been in contact with someone who has, as per the guidance above, you will also be told to self-isolate for 10 days.
Isolation rules loosened for “small number” of critical workers
Isolation rules will be relaxed for a “small number” of fully-vaccinated critical workers who are identified as close contacts of coronavirus cases, Boris Johnson has said after coming under sustained pressure over the “pingdemic”.
The Prime Minister on Monday resisted widespread calls to announce a more wide-reaching change to the rules to reduce the number of people in isolation, as he addressed the public from his own quarantine on so-called “freedom day”.
He described self-isolation as “one of the few shots we have got left in our locker”, on Monday when he scrapped most remaining legal restrictions and defended the timing, despite cases soaring.
Speaking in the Commons, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi gave more details on the incoming exemption for self-isolation, which already covers frontline NHS staff and social care workers.
Mr Zahawi said the change would cover the police, air traffic controllers and train signallers, and others in “circumstances where there would be a serious risk of harm to public welfare if people in critical roles are unable to go to their workplace”.
“So people in those kinds of roles, who have received two vaccinations plus two weeks beyond the second vaccine, will not need to self-isolate for those critical tasks,” he added.