Good morning. Business leaders have become increasingly concerned about the so-called “pingdemic” caused by increasing numbers of people being told to isolate because they have been in contact with someone testing positive. Last night Boris Johnson said that critical workers would be exempt, and would be allowed to use regular testing instead provided they are fully vaccinated. (We are due to get the list today saying who will count as a critical worker.) But this morning Paul Scully, the business minister, offered an alternative solution; you can always ignore a ping from the NHS Covid app, he pointed out.
Scully was able to say this because, while an instruction to isolate from NHS test and trace is a legal requirement, a ping from the app is just advisory. This was not a distinction that was widely advertised when the app was launched, but ministers now seem keen to highlight it.
Scully told Times Radio:
It’s important to understand the rules. You have to legally isolate if you are on the … contacted by test and trace, or if you’re trying to claim isolation payments.
The app is there to give … to allow you to make informed decisions. And I think by backing out of mandating a lot of things, we’re encouraging people to really get the data in their own hands to be able to make decisions on what’s best for them, whether they’re employer or an employee.
Asked whether this meant people should or should not self-isolate if pinged, Scully replied: “We want to encourage people to still use the app to be able to do the right thing, because we estimate it saves around 8,000 lives.” But he said it was “up to individuals and employers”.
As the Times’ Steven Swinford reports, Scully’s fellow business minister, Lord Grimstone, has also been making this point in a letter to employers.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.
9.30am: The ONS publishes its latest weekly death figures for England and Wales.
10.30am: Lord Bethell, the health minister, gives evidence to the Commons health committee about the NHS patient data sharing scheme.
10.45am: Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, gives evidence to the Commons business committee about the steel industry and domestic heating.
11.30am: Downing Street holds its daily lobby briefing.
11.30am: Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, gives a speech to the Centre for Social Justice.
12pm: The Department for Education publishes school attendance figures.
12.30pm: A Foreign Office minister responds to a Commons urgent question about the Chinese state-backed Microsoft Exchange hack.
Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently and that is likely to be the case today. For more coronavirus developments, do follow our global Covid live blog.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.
Alternatively, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org