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Factories could shut down due to test and trace ‘pings’

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Written by: Emma Lunn
15/07/2021
The government has been warned that factories across the UK are on the verge of halting production due to pings from the NHS Covid app.

When someone gets ‘pinged’ by the app, it is to tell them that they’ve come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus and should isolate for 10 days. Recipients are not told where and when they might have come into contact with an infected person.

The latest data shows that 530,126 alerts were sent in the seven days to 7 July, a 46% rise in a week.

But union Unite warns that the number of isolation warnings mean some industry sectors could grind to a halt.

Unite has received multiple notices from across industry, particularly the automotive sector, that a huge increase in the number of staff being advised to self-isolate by the NHS app is causing havoc on production lines.

Some sites are struggling to operate due to hundreds of staff being off at once, with one major engine supplier telling Unite that delays to orders are so severe that work may be permanently moved to China.

Unite is aware of a trial being held at a UK auto maker to reduce the amount of unnecessary self-isolations, which it said industry leaders are keen to replicate to prevent UK manufacturing being ‘crippled’.

The union said the government ‘absolutely must not wait’ until 16 August to find a solution to the issue, which it said will lead to people deleting the app and refusing to engage with it in future.

From 16 August, anyone who is fully vaccinated and is pinged by the app won’t have to self-isolate for 10 days. To be considered in this group, the person must have received the second jab 14 days or more previously.

Instead of isolating, those who are double vaccinated and aware of a potential contact will be advised to take a PCR test. Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will have to self-isolate for the usual 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “No one is advocating for coronavirus controls to go out the window and Unite’s number one priority remains the health and safety of our members.

“But the reports Unite is receiving from our members and their employers are extremely worrying. It is not an exaggeration to say factories are on the verge of shutting and that at some sites hundreds of staff are off work.

“One major engine supplier has said that so many people are absent and orders so far behind that work may to be permanently relocated to China.

“We know that industry leaders are keen to adopt a trial currently being held at a major car maker to safely reduce self-isolation absences to prevent the sector from being crippled. It is clear that something has to be done in time for July 19, or else people will simply start deleting the app en masse to avoid isolation notices. There will be public health consequences if test and trace becomes seen as a nuisance rather than an infection control measure.”

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