More than half a million people in England were pinged by the NHS Test and Trace app in a week, the highest figure recorded.
A total of 520,194 alerts were sent to users of the NHS COVID-19 app in the week to July 7, telling them they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus and to self-isolate.
This is up from 356,677 the previous week – a rise of 46% – and is the highest weekly figure since data was first published in January.
It comes as some companies are reportedly missing 20% of their workers.
Factories across Britain are in danger of closing down as a result of employees being “pinged” by the app, union Unite warned.
The union said large numbers of workers are being told to self-isolate, with companies in the automotive industry particularly affected.
This morning Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the government is “concerned” about the number of people off work due to being “pinged” by the app.
Mr Jenrick told LBC radio today: “It is important that we have the app, that we take it seriously, that when we do get those messages we act accordingly.”
But he said ministers would give “further thought” on how the government can ensure it is a “proportionate response”.
He added: “We are concerned about absences as a result of being pinged, for example. That is one of the reasons why we do need to move to a more proportionate approach.”
Mr Jenrick was forced to defend the government’s handling of COVID-19 rules, branded a “total shambles”.
He insisted the nation is moving into a “new phase” where “we all exercise our personal judgement”.
Now might be a good time to reset the way app works
The huge jump in numbers will concern the government.
Boris Johnson keeps pointing to the success of the vaccine rollout and the protection it offers. But he cannot afford to disregard the steep rise in the number of people being pinged by the NHS app.
We know infection rates are rising so we expect more people be alerted by the app. There was much talk last week that Health Secretary Sajid Javid had asked for the app’s sensitivity to be looked at following pressure from employers and businesses warning of severe staff shortages.
Now might be a good time to reset the way app works. It is based on proximity and duration: it calculates risk based on how close you were to someone and for how long. It does not know if these two contacts are vaccinated, standing back to back or in a well-ventilated area.
But reports in some of the papers today suggest the government is rowing back on changing the sensitivity right now as case numbers continue to surge. It is still one of the the best ways to gauge the growth in infections.
Next month the rules will change meaning double jabbed people will no longer be asked to self isolate. But that is still a number of weeks away.
We are likely to see a surge in infections in the coming days as the ‘football effect’ kicks in. The scenes of fans gathering to enjoy the Euros worried many epidemiologists.
And next week all restrictions in England will be lifted driving infections up even further and faster.
But Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said it is “difficult” for people in England to know exactly what is required of them.
And he urged Westminster to follow a four-nation approach.
“It is the UK government that is the outlier and if they were prepared to bring themselves into line with the decisions that have been made in Scotland and in Wales, for example, that would be clearer and simpler for everybody,” Mr Drakeford told Good Morning Britain.
The TUC slammed the official guidance as a “recipe for chaos and rising infections”.
And shop workers union Usdaw described it as a “real mess”, offering no assurances for employees or customers.
Meanwhile Dr Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said firms are “understandably confused” by the government’s “mixed messages and patchwork requirements”.
Rishi Sunak ‘made calculation he doesn’t need Muslim voters’, claims Tory MP Rehman Chishti
Rishi Sunak has “made the calculation” that he doesn’t need Muslim voters for his “political purposes”, a former minister has claimed.
Tory MP Rehman Chishti told Sky News’ Politics Hub With Sophy Ridge that during the last leadership election, Mr Sunak promised he was “committed” to engaging with the community and told him: “We will work together on this if I become prime minister”.
But Mr Chishti said he had “not seen the prime minister for over a year and a half”.
Politics Live: Islamophobia row deepens for Sunak
The former foreign minister – who once put himself forward for the Conservative Party leadership – also criticised Mr Sunak for failing to appoint an independent adviser on Islamophobia, which both David Cameron and Theresa May did while in office.
“I’ve said to the prime minister, look, let’s treat all faith communities fairly and equally,” he told Sophy Ridge.
“So with regards to the Jewish community, antisemitism has seen a real unacceptable rise and therefore the government has rightly put forward the resources [and] it has an independent adviser to deal with antisemitism.
“However, with regards to the Muslim community… the prime minister has failed to appoint an independent adviser on Islamophobia for the last 16 months and there’s been no funding… for that.
“And then you look at the prime minister’s statement [on Sunday], when he talks about intolerance and hate in politics, and he makes it very clear the government is committed to dealing with that and he says dealing with anti-Semitism. Absolutely.
“But there’s no mention in that statement yesterday about tackling anti-Muslim hate.”
Mr Chishti added: “I think maybe the prime minister has made the calculation, you know, he doesn’t want to engage with the Muslim community because he doesn’t need that for his political purposes.”
Sky News has contacted Number 10 for a response.
Mr Chishti’s remarks come amid an ongoing row within the Tory ranks over the suspension of former deputy chair, Lee Anderson, after he refused to apologise for claiming “Islamists” had taken “control” over London and that mayor Sadiq Khan had “given our capital city away to his mates”.
While Mr Sunak called the remarks unacceptable and “wrong”, he declined to call them Islamophobic.
Some Conservatives have called for Mr Anderson to be reinstated, while others want the government to go further in their condemnation of the Ashfield MP.
Mr Chishti said Mr Anderson’s comments were “completely and utterly unacceptable” and a “lazy use of language”.
But he would not say if the remarks were racist, and said it was another justification for having an independent adviser who could make a ruling without political influence.
Dramatic bodycam video: Two rescued after suspected arson attack in Birmingham
Two people have been rescued after being trapped inside a burning building, following a suspected arson attack.
West Midlands Police said firearms officers spotted the fire at Villa Road, Lozells in Birmingham just before midnight on Sunday.
The police officers alerted the fire brigade and then entered the building next door before leading the occupants out to safety.
Footage showed them using a battering ram to break down the door to make the rescue.
They also checked another property located above the fire but found no one was inside.
Police said their officers were checked by paramedics at the scene, with one going to hospital for further checks for smoke inhalation.
They added that their investigators were treating the incident as arson.
DS David Newson, from Birmingham CID, said: “This fire had the potential to have really serious consequences. Thankfully, the quick-thinking response of officers in the face of danger to themselves got the two residents to safety.
“We are working with our colleagues at WMFS Fire Investigation Team and would like to hear from local people as we try to build a picture of what has happened.
“Villa Road is a main route and we’d ask anyone who was driving along it between 11pm and midnight time, to take a look at any dashcam they may have, as it could hold vital evidence for our investigation.”
New military housing plans paused after backlash
The Ministry of Defence has paused new military housing plans following a backlash over the new rules on entitlement.
Andrew Murrison, a defence minister, said the MoD was “pausing the rollout of the elements of the policy related to Service Family Accommodation” after listening to feedback and conducting a review.
“This includes the move to needs-based allocation and in the short term the widening of entitlement,” he said in the statement published on Tuesday morning.
As first reported in Sky News, defence sources feared officers could quit over the plan to update rules on the subsidised housing offered to personnel in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and – where relevant – their families.
These included changes such as the housing offer for a lieutenant colonel or colonel being downgraded, as the military moves to allocating homes based on needs rather than rank.
The changes had been due to come into force next month.
The MoD will still push ahead with plans “to improve the standard of Single Living Accommodation, help military personnel get on the housing ladder by refunding up to £1,500 expenses and give personnel more preference in how they live,” the minister said.
Mr Murrison’s statement added: “Our Armed Forces personnel make extraordinary sacrifices to protect our nation, which is why our Modernised Accommodation Offer (MAO) gives greater flexibility, backed by an extra £200m investment.
“This is on top of £4bn to upgrade accommodation and build new living quarters for our service personnel over the next decade.”
An online petition calling for a review of the “new accommodation offer” had attracted more than 7,400 signatures by 16 February.
The petition said: “If the policy is implemented as it currently stands, we believe that armed forces retention rates are likely to fall to even lower levels than those at present.
“This could have an irreversible effect on the capability of the armed forces over both the immediate and intermediate term.”
While the shift to needs-based housing was widely-welcomed, according to defence sources, many officers would also see an erosion in the kind of housing they are entitled to live in following a three-year transition period – which caused outrage in some quarters.
One source told Sky that under the current system, a lieutenant colonel or a colonel – or their equivalent rank in the navy and RAF – with a partner and two children would be entitled to a four-to-five bedroom house with a floor area of 155.5 square metres.
A major – one step down in rank – with a partner and two children would be entitled to a four-bedroom house with a 137 square metre floor area.
Under the new system, any officer of any rank would be entitled to a house with a bedroom for themselves and an additional one for each child – meaning the higher-ranking lieutenant colonels or colonels would effectively see their housing allocation downgraded.
The source said that no compensation was being offered to make up for the loss of space.
Sports1 year ago
‘Storybook stuff’: Inside the night Bryce Harper sent the Phillies to the World Series
Sports11 months ago
MLB Rank 2023: Ranking baseball’s top 100 players
Environment9 months ago
Japan and South Korea have a lot at stake in a free and open South China Sea
Sports2 years ago
Team Europe easily wins 4th straight Laver Cup
Environment1 year ago
Game-changing Lectric XPedition launched as affordable electric cargo bike
Technology3 years ago
Game consoles were once banned in China. Now Chinese developers want a slice of the $49 billion pie
Politics2 years ago
Have the last few wobbly weeks seen a turning point for Johnson as PM?
Environment10 months ago
Tesla advances Powerwall pilot project with German electric company