Posted: 19.07.21 at 00:00 by Rory Poulter
The number of people ‘pinged’ by the Covid-19 app across Richmond borough has more than doubled in two weeks against the background of a sharp rise in infections.
Some 2,253 people were contacted through the NHS Test & Trace app in the week ending July 7, which requires them to go into home quarantine.
This figure is 44.6% higher than the 1,558 'pings' in the week before, and 141% higher than the 934 in the week ending June 23.
The situation across Richmond, Twickenham, Teddington and Kew mirrors a pattern seen across the country ahead of today's so-called Freedom Day, with most legal restrictions removed.
On the face of it, this increase in the number of people being pinged is likely to rise even more quickly this week and through into August.
This means the number of people across the borough who will have to stay at home will increase, which will be a huge problem for businesses and services including the NHS.
In recent weeks a number of streets have seen their rubbish bin collections missed due to staff absence which is understood to be at least partly caused by the fact some workers are self-isolating.
There is mounting concern that even people who have been double vaccinated and tested negative for the virus are required to self-isolate for up to 10 days.
This will remain the case through until August 16, although the government is under pressure to change this.
The figures on the number of people pinged is published on the NHS COVID-19 app statistics website.
Figures also show that the number of people in the borough who reported having a positive test through the app in the week ended July 7 was 187, which was up from 157 the week before and 98 in the week ending June 23.
One of the people caught up in the ‘pingdemic’ is award-winning TV journalist John Stapleton, who is a long-term Twickenham resident and has only just come out of the 10 days of home quarantine.
He told the BBC News channel papers review on Thursday that he is aware of some people deleting the app from their smartphones for fear of being pinged and required to quarantine.
"I have been isolating for several days, it is pretty boring. I am luckier than most as I have a garden to walk around, but what it is like being stuck in flat, particularly with two kids who want to play and run around heaven only knows. It’s tough," he said.
Mr Stapleton, who has been double jabbed and had a negative test, added: "Obviously, the app is well intentioned, it is in our best interests that we have it. But when it is creating as many pings as it does at the moment, you have to say there must be another way.
"The forecast is that by August we may have as many as 100,000 infections per day. If those 100,000 have been in touch with, say, half a dozen people each, which is quite likely, you are looking at possibly 3.5m people a week who are going to be isolated in their own homes. The impact will be devastating."
Richmond Borough Council leader, Gareth Roberts, is asking residents to continue to take precautions after Monday because infections with the Delta variant of coronavirus are rising sharply.
He said: "The number of cases in Richmond upon Thames are rocketing. There are currently around 400 people in the borough who have COVID-19. And, we are hearing from our local hospital that there are patients with the virus being admitted.
"Whilst the hospital numbers remain low, it would be foolish to not continue to be careful. If not for ourselves, but for those around us.
"Similarly to all other businesses, we are currently reviewing the safety measures in our own services and are considering how we will continue to keep both our staff and residents safe, particularly whilst COVID rampages through the borough."
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