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The NHS Test and Trace app is 'pinging' neighbours through walls
The NHS Test and Trace app is 'pinging' neighbours through walls if their phones are in close proximity to each other, it was claimed last night.
Neighbours are being forced into quarantine for ten days despite never coming into contact with a positive case of the virus because the bluetooth signal used by the app is known to be strong enough to penetrate walls.
This means the technology will occasionally send an order to quarantine to people because their next-door neighbour – with whom they share a wall – has tested positive, sources told The Telegraph.
It comes as business leaders warned the 'pingdemic' was causing chaos for families, firms and hospitals and demanded changes on the NHS Covid-19 app to avoid a 'self-inflicted economic wound'.
NHS chiefs have also warned the system was making it 'increasingly difficult' to deliver routine care and said hospitals were now scrapping operations because so many workers were having to self isolate.
Nearly 900,000 alerts telling people to quarantine were issued in the first week of this month following contact with a coronavirus victim.
Sources have said issues concerning the sensitivity of the app were raised when it was initially created and are now in the process of being tweaked.
A source told the Daily Telegraph: 'We are hearing of anecdotal cases and we do know that it is possible for the signal to travel through walls, although it is weakened.'
Dr Fiona Sampson, a senior research fellow in emergency and urgent care at the University of Sheffield, told The Daily Telegraph: 'My partner got pinged and rang 111 to find out when the contact was. However, he hadn't left the house on the day of the alleged contact.
'We later realised he had been working with his phone on the table, less than two metres away from our neighbour.'
It comes as figures revealed nearly 900,000 alerts telling people to quarantine were issued in the first week of this month. NHS England data also showed 520,000 alerts were sent by the app last week
A record number of positive tests were also linked to the app last week, data showed. There were 86,000 cases logged with the app, up 40 per cent from 61,000 the previous week
And the number of alerts sent out in relation to venues also more than doubled in seven days
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured visiting Redcar last week) said ministers were still considering how the app could be updated
Meanwhile Jason Delaney, 39, a bar owner from Alton, Hampshire, told the newspaper he too was informed he had come into contact with a Covid case despite not having met with anyone on the day in question.
A car factory in Sunderland has been thrown into chaos by the NHS app, with hundreds told to isolate.
Reports suggest up to 900 workers are being forced to stay at home after receiving 'pings'.
Nissan said it has 'adjusted' production at the Wearside site, which employs 7,000 people.
But unions are warning many factories are approaching collapse with so many staff members forced to stay home by self-isolation warnings.
Nissan said it had 'a number of staff being required to self-isolate following close contact with Covid'.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: 'No one is advocating for Covid controls to go out the window and Unite's number one priority remain 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 exagerration to say factories are on the verge of shutting and that at some sites hundreds of staff are off work.'Advertisement
NHS guidance says the app's bluetooth signal is reduced through walls but not blocked entirely, with people on the other side 'less likely' to receive an alert.
A Government spokesman said the number of people 'pinged' through walls was not large enough to be considered 'an issue', adding: 'But we wouldn't say that this never happens.'
This week the rising numbers of people being forced into self-isolation led unions to warn that factories across the country are on the 'verge of shutting' down.
Meanwhile NHS chiefs also warned the system was making it 'increasingly difficult' to deliver routine care and said hospitals were now scrapping operations because so many workers were having to self isolate.
Up to 900 workers at car giant Nissan's flagship plant in Sunderland are being made to self-isolate after they were pinged by the app, it was claimed today.
And the National Care Association said care homes had 'real staffing issues' because of the app.
Bin rounds were also missed this week in Sutton Coldfield because of outbreaks of Covid and some hospital trusts have had up to 500 staff isolating at a time, forcing them to close beds and cancel operations.
Meanwhile the chief executive of Rolls-Royce, Torsten Muller-Otvos, said the car maker was on the 'edge of a critical situation' and a complete shutdown could not be ruled out.
Elsewhere, Chris Hopson, of NHS Providers, said: 'Trust leaders continue to share serious concerns about rising levels of staff isolation, which are now significantly impacting on their ability to deliver care.'
Yesterday, communities secretary Robert Jenrick admitted No10 was 'concerned' about the number of people who may have to self-isolate because of the app.
Official figures released yesterday show the contact-tracing app sent out 520,000 self-isolation alerts last week.
Mr Jenrick told LBC: 'It is important that we have the app, that we take it seriously, that when we do get those messages we act accordingly.
'But we are going to give further thought to how we can ensure it is a proportionate response.'
He added: 'We have indicated that for those who have been double-vaccinated there are opportunities to take a more proportionate approach.
'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.'
Elsewhere, councils raised concerns over bin collections after Leeds, Bristol and Rochdale were forced to leave resident's rubbish on the curbside after the app forced workers to stay at home.
Liverpool Council confirmed bin collection would be cancelled for two weeks in parts of the city.
Cabinet member for neighbourhoods Abdul Qadir said: 'Unfortunately due to Covid guidelines on isolation our refuse service team is severely depleted, and we need to prioritise our waste collections.
'Our current programme is clearly not sustainable when one in four staff are unavailable to work.
'We know the temporary suspension of collecting garden waste will be an inconvenience but it will allow us to ensure general waste and alleyway cleansing is kept to schedule.
'Our recycling centres are also open late in the summer so residents have an option if they feel they can't wait for the next green bin cycle.
'After 19 July, the isolation guidelines change for those who have been double jabbed and this two week delay will give us time to re-organise the teams to ensure we can get back on track at the start of August.'