Farage: Far from Opening Up, We’re Locking Down, as 600,000 Pinged by NHS App

The newly launched contact tracing app, which uses Bluetooth technology to alert users if they spend 15 minutes or more within two metres (six feet) of another user who subsequently tests positive for the nove coronavirus COVID-19, is pictured on a smartphone in London on September 24, 2020. - The …
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

Brexit leader Nigel Farage has said that since ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday, England appears to be locking down rather than opening up, as hundreds of thousands of Britons are told to quarantine after being pinged by the NHS coronavirus app.

The National Health Service app alerts users if they have been in proximity to anyone, also with the phone app, who has tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus and instructs them to self-isolate. Recent weeks have seen an increasing number of people told to quarantine, giving rise to the term ‘pingdemic’. In the first week of July, the NHS app pinged more than 500,000 people; the following week, 600,000.

The pingdemic has resulted in staff shortages, including at petrol stations and supermarkets, with reports across the country of empty shelves, prompting Tobias Ellwood MP, the chairman of the defence select committee, to state that the army could be used to help if staff shortages continue.

“The urgency of staff shortages now impacting on supermarkets and, by extension, national food distribution, warrants a Cobra meeting today for which the deployment of the army to assist in HGV driver shortfall should be a last-resort option considered,” Mr Ellwood said on Thursday, according to The Times.

There are also staff absences in police forces, public sanitation services, and railway network control centres, including signallers.

Responding to the surge in self-isolation being prompted by the NHS app, Mr Farage said during his GB News evening programme on Thursday: “What a mess the whole thing is! I thought, with the early vaccine rollout, not only had Brexit been fully vindicated but that we put ourselves in a very advantageous position compared to other countries.”

Remarking on the hundreds of thousands advised to self-isolate this month, Farage said: “Far from opening up, we’re actually beginning a process of lockdown down. If we go on at this rate, goodness knows where we’ll be.”

Unlike orders from the NHS’s Test and Trace team, it is not a legal requirement to self-isolate if pinged by the app, with some employers reportedly instructing their staff to ignore the alerts if a PCR test shows a negative result. However, ministers have told Britons to follow the app’s orders to isolate for 10 days.

Reports also suggest that people are deleting the app in order to avoid being pinged, with a YouGov poll finding this week that 52 per cent of young people have either deleted the app or refused to use it when they should have, such as switching off the Bluetooth or avoided checking in to venues with the QR code. The poll found, as per the reports from The Times, that of the people that downloaded the app in the first place, 10 per cent have deleted it.

“Is it time to scrap the app?” Farage said. “I think it really is.”

“I think the app is now doing more harm than good,” he added.

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