Just as we were getting tired of hearing about the pandemic, the cycle starts over again. This time, it’s our phones that are putting us at risk. Welcome to the ‘pingdemic’.

What is a ‘pingdemic’?

The NHS Track and Trace app has started handing out self-isolation notifications like they’re going out of business. But the problem is, it could actually be putting people out of business.

Getting pinged when the system was fairly new wasn’t much trouble. You would receive the notification to self-isolate, and do so for up to 10 days. Unfortunately, it’s now bringing massive drawbacks for certain sectors.

When the social distancing restrictions were lifted on 19 July 2021, we began to enjoy life as normal as its been in a long time. But with the extra mingling came a sharp rise in cases which in turn has led to an unprecedented number of pings.

The pingdemic effect on businesses

The pingdemic has amounted to a high number of businesses resulting in major staff shortages. With over 70,000 being told to isolate during the week of 12 July, thousands of businesses have struggled to stay open, or even chosen to close again to protect remaining staff and the public.

Businesses in the retail, manufacturing and hospitality sectors have been hit particularly hard by pings from the COVID app. There are a few things you can try to avoid having staff out of action for up to 10 days.

Avoiding staff self-isolation

The Government guidance has changed and everyone is allowed to return to work. However, it is your choice as an employer to tell staff whether or not they can work from home.

The less staff you have in your workplace, the lower the chances of the virus coming in and more staff members getting pinged, or worse, catching the virus.

It could be worth changing the way workloads are managed. Bringing in temporary workers to cover isolation periods, or having workloads shared between your remaining workforce, would ensure the business could continue to run even at less capacity.

New rules for critical work

A new rule states that “a limited number of named workers may be able to leave self-isolation under specific controls for the purpose of undertaking critical work only.”

Several have been given a lifeline from the pingdemic. Your staff may be able to ignore a ping and avoid self-isolation f your business is part of one of the following sectors:

  • energy
  • civil nuclear
  • digital infrastructure
  • food production and supply
  • waste
  • water
  • veterinary medicines
  • essential chemicals
  • essential transport
  • medicines
  • medical devices
  • clinical consumable supplies
  • emergency services
  • border control
  • essential defence outputs
  • local government.

This rule will be in force until 16 August 2021 when those who have been fully vaccinated will be exempt from self-isolation.

In some cases, there could be critical roles in sectors that do not appear in the list. If you think you have a role that meets the criteria, you can contact the relevant government department with responsibility for your sector. These will be agreed on a case-by-case basis.

Read more on the Governments rule for critical workers and workplaces in their press release from 19 July 2021.

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