‘If I Get Pinged My IVF Is Cancelled, And I Lose Thousands Of Pounds’ People Are Deleting The Covid App In Droves And Here’s Why

An exclusive Grazia survey shows almost a third of readers have deleted the app.

Matt Hancock NHS app

by Rebecca Holman |
Updated on

With so-called ‘Freedom Day’ almost upon us – 19th July is the day when all legal restrictions will be lifted in the UK for the first time since March 2020 –Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck an uncharacteristically sombre tone. ‘I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough. This pandemic is not over. This disease coronavirus continues to carry risks for you and for your family.

‘We cannot simply revert instantly from Monday 19th July to life as it was before Covid.’

But, with cases continuing to rise, and now over the 30,000 mark a day, one measure that will still be in place next week is the requirement to isolate for 10 days if you are asked to by test and trace, or if you are pinged by the NHS Covid App, even if you have had two doses of the Covid vaccine (this will change after 16 August, when those who have had two jabs won’t need to isolate, assuming they have a negative PCR test). BBC analysis estimates that more than 4.5 million people could be asked to isolate between now and then{ =nofollow}.

But what happens if you want to avoid having to isolate just as the world starts to open up for the first time in 18 months? Then, as far as an increasing number of people are concerned, your best bet is to delete the NHS Covid App altogether.

We asked Grazia’s followers on Instagram (via Instagram stories) how many of them were still using the app properly, and how many people had deleted it in the last few weeks. We had around 8000 responses, which revealed that only 37% of respondents were still using the app fully – i.e. keeping the Bluetooth switched on and checking into venues. On top of this, 29% of respondents admitted to deleting the app completely in the last couple of weeks – that’s around 2300 people on one quick survey.

But, in a country where broadly speaking, we’ve been happy to adhere to the rules and remain cautious up until this point. Despite fears that Brits would be too ‘freedom loving’ to follow the rules, an Ipsos Mori survey in October 2020 found that 96% of respondents followed the rules all, most, or at least half of the time. Meanwhile YouGov survey last week revealed that 71% of adults want face masks to remain compulsory on public transport.

So why are we suddenly throwing caution to the wind and doing the one thing that’s being asked of us to keep Covid under control?

The responses were mixed – plenty of people didn’t trust the app, and felt it was too sensitive. Several people had been pinged and told to isolate when they hadn’t left the house, or because a neighbour had tested positive and the app had picked them up as a close contact via the wall.

As people started mixing with friends and meeting up with people again, there also seemed to be an element of FOMO and unfairness kicking in – several people talked about being the only one of their friends who bothered to check in or keep their app on in a restaurant – and as a result they were the only ones who had to isolate. Maybe the sense that we’re ‘all in this together’ only counts when we’re all in lockdown together.

For some readers, their inability to work from home was a deciding factor – one reader said that her boss had told her she’d only get statutory sick pay if she had to isolate at home, and asked all employees to switch theirs off, and several other respondents said that they too were asked to switch the app off by their employer.

There were also specific reasons why people had switched off their app, with big appointments and plans looming, that they really, really didn’t want to miss out on – from the upcoming summer holidays, and the woman who was isolating at home in preparation for visiting her family abroad for the first time since the pandemic, to several brides-to-be who couldn’t bear to have plans for their big day scuppered again at the last minute by the ominous ping of the Covid app. Another reader had an upcoming IVF appointment and told us that she’d lose her appointment and the money if she had to self-isolate.

SO much of this pandemic has been about balancing risks with freedoms, and now, more than ever, as we are being offered more freedoms, and the risk is (maybe?) reducing, that balancing seems to be tipping over. We are being offered the opportunity to live our lives again, and while it’s easy to be stoic about a cancelled wedding or a Zoom-only Christmas when everyone is in the same boat, and the risk is clear, when you’re the only one having to cancel your holiday plans, or lose the deposit on your wedding, because of an anonymous ping on your phone, it becomes harder to swallow.

But, while 29% of those asked have deleted the app, the majority of respondents hadn’t – and are sucking up those 10 days of isolation when asked to – like Joanna, 36, from Essex. 'Some friends and I went away and stayed at an Air BnB - we didn't leave the house all day and somehow we all got pinged. It's a bit of a mystery and since I've told people, everyone seems to have an opinion on the app, a friend of a friend who had a nightmare with it, or a reason or justification for why they've deleted it or turned off the Bluetooth ("I'm double jabbed!" "It's nearly July 19 anyway!") I'm not judging anyone - I think there's been so many mistakes by the government, that apathy and rebellion is bound to be kicking in. I've personally stuck to it and will continue to have the app running, Bluetooth and all, because to me, anecdotally, it does all feel a bit close for comfort at the moment, I trust the scientists, not the government, and I'm playing it safe.'

And while it’s easy to dismiss the app as a waste of time, particularly once you’ve had your vaccine, Emma, 25, from Liverpool, discovered that sticking to the rules prevented her from spreading the virus further when she got pinged, just a few days after getting her first jab. ‘I’ve been deleting my app on and off for the last 18 months because I was being extremely safe otherwise and having it really affected my mental health. Since catching coronavirus though, I do regret that. I only found out I was a “contact” after my friend texted me when he tested positive, so I reported it on the app and started my 10-day isolation. I got a PCR after three days, it was negative. On the 6th day, I had a positive lateral flow test and, on the 10th, it was confirmed with a positive PCR. So had I ignored the app telling me to isolate, I would’ve spread it that entire week! In fact, my sister had the same contact but did ignore the isolation because she tested negative all week, only on the 10th day did she test positive and at that point she’d already been with two friends who also went on to test positive.’

It increasingly feels like the genie is out of the bottle now – as a nation we’ve followed the rules incredibly well and stuck out what has been the toughest 18 months of some of our lives. But now the rules aren’t rules, they’re only guidance, and we’ve been promised ‘freedom day,’ the decisions we make are murkier. It remains to see whether the personal choices we make now will come back to haunt us in the winter.

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