Death of the NHS Covid app: Software behind hated ‘pingdemic’ will be shut down next month in next step back to pre-pandemic life
- NHS Covid app, downloaded 31million times, will be shut down next month
- The app told people to isolate if they had been in contact with an infected person
The NHS’s Covid app will be shut down next month, officials confirmed today in the next step back to pre-pandemic life.
The software, downloaded more than 31million times in England and Wales, was responsible for the hated ‘pingdemic’.
The app told people to self-isolate for up to 10 days if they had been in close contact — within two metres for more than 15 minutes — with an infected person.
While Brits were never legally obliged to do this, hundreds of thousands per week were told to self-isolate at the height of the ‘pingdemic’ in summer 2021.
The software, downloaded more than 31million times, was responsible for the hated ‘pingdemic’. Brits were encouraged to input their positive test results into the app so it can send alerts to anyone they may have recently been close to, in order to advise them they have been infected and should isolate
The NHS Covid app was launched in September 2020 as a flagship device to help prevent the spread of the virus.
It uses Bluetooth to estimate how close a user has been to a Covid positive patient and for how long.
This information allows it to determine whether someone is at risk of catching the virus.
It would alert people that they had been in contact with someone who had tested positive — whose details were kept private — and to stay at home.
While Brits have not been required to isolate for a year, the app sent out more than 1million alerts per week during its peak.
What does the NHS Covid-19 app do?
The NHS Covid-19 app aims to slow the spread of the virus.
It is available to over-16s in England and Wales. Features include:
- Getting alerts to let you know if you may be at risk from the coronavirus
- A symptoms checker
- The latest advice based on your circumstances
- General information on Covid
- Entering a positive result (from an NHS or paid-for test) to alert others if they may be at risk
As a result, parts of the country ground to a halt and ministers were forced to release key workers from quarantine to keep the NHS, transport and food supply services functioning — following warnings of the ‘most serious’ food shortages since WWII.
The app was so sensitive that people were being needlessly ‘pinged’ through their walls if their neighbour was infected.
In an announcement today, the UK Health Security Agency confirmed that the app would be shutdown on April 27.
It said: ‘People using the NHS COVID-19 app in England and Wales have helped to break chains of transmission and reduce infections.
‘Leading scientists at the University of Oxford and University of Warwick have estimated that the app prevented around one million cases, 44,000 hospitalisations and 9,600 people dying during its first year alone.’
However, it noted that the number of app users has ‘steadily reduced’ since July 2021.
Since the Government scrapped its free Covid testing programme on April 1 2022, fewer positive results have been entered in the app and fewer notifications have been sent to close contacts.
The UKHSA said it will close the app but use the ‘knowledge, technology and lessons learned’ from it to respond to future pandemic threats.
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