Some links to products and travel providers on this website will earn Traveling For Miles a commission that helps contribute to the running of the site. Traveling For Miles has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Traveling For Miles and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities. For more details please see the disclosures found at the bottom of every page.
As of Monday, 19 July, most Covid-related rules governing behavior in homes and in public in England have been lifted so that life, such as it is, can get back to some kind of normality. Or at least that’s what the public has been told. Unfortunately, because the UK government is led by people who would struggle to run a lemonade stand, life, for a lot of England’s residents, is currently far from normal and, sadly, it’s only going to get worse.
A Bit Of Background
The UK government spent most of last year spending countless millions of taxpayer funds on developing a “track and trace” app that people are expected to use when visiting establishments such as restaurants, bars, and gyms and when they’re diagnosed with Covid.
The idea is that if people use their apps to record their visits to establishments where people congregate and if people tell the app if they have been diagnosed with Covid, the app can then alert people who have been in an establishment at the same time as someone who has Covid and those people are then advised to self-isolate for 10 days. The people being alerted may very well not have Covid and the advice to self-isolate may not be legally binding, but when, in the middle of a pandemic, a government app tells you that should be self-isolating, what kind of responsible person doesn’t take that advice seriously?
Note: If the NHS Track & Trace app tells you to self-isolate its only advice. If the NHS Track & Trace team gets in touch and tells you to self-isolate it’s a legal requirement to do so.
The Problem Everyone Saw Coming
While people were still required to be careful when visiting restaurants, bars, and gyms, and while there were still limits on the number of people that were allowed inside popular establishments, the NHS Track & Trace app worked reasonably well. Sure, it relies heavily on the public actually using the app when they enter a public place and it relies heavily on people letting the app know when they’ve been diagnosed with Covid but, by and large, the app has been doing its job without causing widespread chaos.
Once it was announced that all Covid-related measures were going to be lifted in England, everyone with more than a couple of brain cells could see that the app was going to cause issues.
With all restrictions lifted, it was obvious that considerably more people would visit bars and restaurants, and with theatres and sports venues allowed to host thousands of people in confined areas, it didn’t take a genius to predict that the already rising numbers of Covid cases would start to rise even quicker (cases in England have been on the rise since the government first started lifting the more major restrictions over a month ago).
Rapidly rising Covid cases don’t necessarily have to translate into a rapidly rising death rate (the UK’s surprisingly successful vaccination program appears to be seeing to that), but a significant rise in Covid cases was always going to result in a significant rise in the number of people being told by the NHS Track & trace app that they should self-isolate for 10 days.
Just about everyone in the country could see this and the UK government was warned over and over again…but it chose to do nothing.
One Easy Solution Ignored
An easy “out” for the UK government would have been to say that anyone who has been fully vaccinated by the UK’s NHS (over 30 million people in England representing over 50% of the population) would not need to self-isolate even if “pinged” by the Track & Trace app. We keep being told how effective the vaccines are so there should be no issue telling all fully vaccinated individuals that they can ignore the advice to self-isolate in good conscience.
Amazingly, however, the government chose not to go down this path and instead, announced that everyone would continue to be be advised to self-isolate even if they were fully vaccinated. It then went on to say that fully vaccinated individuals could choose to ignore the advice from 19 August.
What, exactly, does the UK government think will happen between 19 July and 19 August that will put fully vaccinated people in a better position to ignore advice to self-isolate? We already know that someone cannot be classified as “fully vaccinated” before two weeks have passed since they received their second vaccine dose, so why not just say that fully vaccinated people can ignore the Track and Trace app right away? It’s not like their immune systems are going to be more Covid-resistant on 19 August. Their immune systems are as resistant to Covid now as they’re ever going to be.
In the 7 days to 14 July, the NHS Track & Trace app advised over 600,000 people that they had to self-isolate and that’s data that only covers a time period before all of England’s Covid restrictions were lifted. Can you imagine how many people the app is currently advising to self-isolate now that all restrictions have been lifted?
Now, late to the game as ever, the government says that it’s finally changing the settings on the NHS Track & trace app to make it “less sensitive” (no timeline has been given for this update) and the public is being told that this will lead to fewer people being advised to self-isolate.
Really? *This* is the government’s solution?
Apparently, the government doesn’t think that’s it’s ok for fully vaccinated people to ignore the Track and Trace app’s advice to self-isolate but it’s ok to change the app’s settings and potentially allow those who are not fully vaccinated (and by the government’s own definitions, more likely to contract, carry, and pass on Covid-19) to go about their lives like nothing is the matter. Who thinks this stuff up?
Just like a lot of people, Joanna and I could see that England was not going to be a place to be when all restrictions were lifted so as we had no interest in finding ourselves being advised to self-isolate for 10 days for no good reason, we left town a little over a week ago and are now staying with friends in the Mediterranean.
We’re all fully vaccinated and were staying halfway up a mountain with very few other people anywhere near us so it’s almost like Covid isn’t a “thing” anymore. Sure, we still have to wear masks on the rare occasions that we go down the mountain to get groceries or if we want to go out to eat, but we have more space than we know what to do with, the sun is shining, a cool breeze is keeping the temperature to an acceptable level, the air is clear, the views are fantastic and there’s little chance that a venture out into the big wide world will result in an app advising us to remain indoors for 10 days.
It’s a little ironic (and it’s an indictment of how the UK government has been handling things) that although we’re currently in a country with considerably more Covid restrictions than England, life here feels considerably freer.