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UK Covid live news: minister stresses people pinged by NHS app can choose not to isolate

Latest updates: business minister says instruction to isolate from NHS test and trace is legal requirement, but ping from the app is just advisory

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And here are some more lines from Paul Scully’s interviews this morning.

I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on Covid fatalities. The median age is 82 – 81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get Covid and live longer. Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4 per cent) and of those virtually all survive. And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate.

I don’t think that’s right.

The prime minister has had some really difficult decisions to make.

I’m not comfortable that government is mandating anything frankly, I’m a very libertarian Conservative, I want to be able to back off, that’s why yesterday was an opportunity for government to back off from so many different things and let people live their lives.

But what we have to do is make sure that people will also live their lives safely, the NHS can function safely, and these are the challenges that we still have to do. So it’s incredibly frustrating, it’s incredibly complicated to work through the detail, but that’s the challenge we have.

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.

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.

Exclusive:

Ministers have written to major manufacturers emphasising that staff are not legally obliged to isolate if pinged by app

Lord Grimstone, investment minister, told one large employer that app was only an ‘advisory tool’ and that people were not under any ‘legal duty’

Related: Coronavirus live news: 4 million excess deaths in India, study suggests, as official Covid toll passes 414,000

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