NHS staff may soon be exempt from self-isolation and Covid certificates introduced for hospitality in the fall to avoid a common health crisis and a fourth pandemic wave.
Downing Street said on Friday that before the Stage 4 restrictions were lifted, due on July 19, officials were examining whether NHS staff could be released from the requirement to self-isolate if they were ‘pinged’ by the Covid application.
Under current plans, those who are fully vaccinated will be able to forgo self-isolation even if the app detects that they have been in contact with someone who tested positive after August 16.
But that could be put forward for NHS staff, as leaders have warned of the large backlog facing health services, which will only be intensified by staff having to stay home.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said on Thursday staff levels were affected due to staff self-isolation.
And on Friday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson, when asked if there could be a specific exemption for NHS staff, said: ‘This is something we are looking at before Step 4 , but we would obviously need to submit all updates in the path. “
The number of exposure alerts sent to app users in England has climbed more than 60% in one week, according to the latest contact tracing figures.
And that has led to a plea for the public not to remove the app.
The No 10 spokesperson said the app had been an “important tool” in breaking the chain of transmission for the coronavirus.
“The Prime Minister has made it clear that he continues to use it,” the spokesperson said.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said the sensitivity of the app was under constant review and could possibly be adjusted “to suit the circumstances of the time.”
But Justin Madders, the shadow Minister of Labor for Health, said: “It’s difficult to reconcile this plan with the more transmissible Delta variant, now is not the time to take the batteries out of the smoke detector.”
It comes amid new fears about the increase in the number of cases.
As of 9 a.m. as of Friday, there had been 35,707 more laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the government said, the biggest daily increase since January 22.
Another 29 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, bringing the UK total to 128,365.
Separate figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that there have been 153,000 registered deaths in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Elsewhere, the latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) show cases of the dominant variant Delta have increased by a third over the past week.
A total of 216,249 confirmed and probable cases of this variant – first identified in India and now accounting for around 99% of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK – have been identified in all four countries.
Of these, 180,643 were in England, 28,559 in Scotland, 3,666 in Wales and 3,381 in Northern Ireland.
The majority of people admitted to hospital in England with the Delta variant remain unvaccinated, according to figures from PHE.
And it was announced on Friday that additional support would be deployed to Oxford due to an increase in cases.
The Times reported that fears of a fourth wave in the fall meant pubs, restaurants and nightclubs would be forced to ensure customers have a Covid-19 certificate proving they are vaccinated, have had test negative or have some other form of immunity.
The government’s statement on the certification review earlier in the week said that while the so-called vaccine passports are not mandatory now, that does not rule out the possibility that England could face “a situation difficult in autumn or winter “.