Half of Britons cut back on socialising to avoid pingdemic


Nearly half of Britons are reducing social contact in a sign that the “pingdemic” is having a significant effect on behaviour.

Some 46 per cent of those surveyed by YouGov for The Times said that they had reduced contact with others to avoid being “pinged” by the NHS Covid app and having to self-isolate, compared with 39 per cent who said they had not.

The findings suggest that government policy, while enormously disruptive, is having the desired effect. Until August 16, even those who are double-vaccinated are told to stay at home after contact with a positive case.

The vast majority of those surveyed, on July 29 and 30, suggested they were sticking to rules and advice, with 10 per cent saying they had deleted the app from their phones and 13 per cent saying they had switched off its contact tracing function. Seven per cent said they had avoided getting a coronavirus test to avoid being told to isolate.

From August 16, anyone who is double-jabbed will no longer have to isolate after meeting someone who has tested positive, although they will be advised to take daily rapid tests to ensure they do not have the virus.

Ministers have come under pressure to bring that date forward amid warnings that self-isolation was causing a shortage of critical workers. The latest figures show nearly 700,000 people were pinged by the app in a week.

A government spokeswoman said: “The self-isolation rules are doing exactly what they are designed to do — minimising the contacts of people who have been exposed to Covid-19, so we can protect the population while we continue to roll out the vaccine.

“By sticking to the rules, the public are playing a vital role in reducing the spread of the virus and preventing cases from becoming outbreaks. This enables the NHS to vaccinate as many people as possible ahead of August 16th, and we continue to encourage everyone to come forward to get their jab.”

Despite the proportion of people who said they had reduced contact with others, only 16 per cent said they had cancelled plans.

Asked about the present coronavirus situation in the UK, 63 per cent said they thought things were improving but that the pandemic was not yet over. Eighteen per cent thought the pandemic was “just as bad as it has been for a while” and 8 per cent said it was “largely over.”

A separate report said that more than 1.1 million jobs were unfilled amid a shortage of workers caused by the “pingdemic”. Vacancies have topped one million for almost three months, according to research by Adzuna, a recruitment website.

There are almost 31,000 retail vacancies, up by 14 per cent in a month, 10,000 in supermarkets, 77,000 in hospitality and catering, 90,000 in trade and construction, and 84,000 in logistics and warehousing, it said.

Andrew Hunter of Adzuna said: “The pingdemic has hit just as businesses start to get to grips with filling open roles. The struggle to hire is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses, with hundreds of thousands of workers still on furlough, hesitation among others to go back to work, fewer overseas workers available to fill positions, and a lack of skilled staff in some sectors.”

The government announced yesterday that more than 85 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in the UK. More than 88 per cent of adults have received one dose and over 72 per cent have had two.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, described it as “a phenomenal achievement” and thanked the NHS, armed forces officials and volunteers for their “tireless efforts” in getting the country to this point.