Ministers replace ‘hands, face, space’ slogan with ‘let’s keep life moving’ as Boris Johnson struggles to stop ‘pingdemic’ and spiking cases bringing the UK grinding to a halt
- Ministers have changed messaging from heeding ‘hands space face’ precautions to ‘let’s keep life moving’
- The new slogan is rolled out as England lifted all Covid restrictions Monday
- Many are growing frustrated with mixed messaging on ‘pings,’ or notifications of Covid exposure through the NHS app that ask users to isolate
- The UK is facing nearly 50,000 new Covid cases per day
Ministers plan to urge residents to ‘keep life moving’ in their newest slogan which marks the end of most Covid restrictions this week, adding to frustrations of mixed messaging over self-quarantine requirements and spiking cases in the UK.
The ‘let’s keep life moving’ logo, to be used in broadcast and print advertisements, replaces the ‘hands face space’ slogan brought forth in March to represent an earlier, more cautious loosening of some restrictions.
But at the same time, Covid cases are nearing 50,000 per day, and hundreds of thousands each week have been pinged by the NHS Covid app as having come in contact with a new case and are asked to isolate. Since the start of the ‘pingdemic,’ as it has come to be known, thousands have deleted the app to avoid risking a message telling them to stay home.
Boris Johnson unveiled a new ‘hands, face, space’ slogan for the looser lockdown in March urging people to keep being ‘cautious’.
Yesterday Downing Street slapped down two ministers who said isolation was optional if pinged by the app.
Paul Scully, the business minister, said the public could make ‘informed decisions’ on whether to quarantine.
Meanwhile Lord Gerry Grimstone, the investment minister, reportedly stressed to car manufacturer Nissan there is no legal duty to isolate from an app notification.
The sheer volume of self-isolation orders has been causing massive disruptions to business and infrastructure, threatening to thwart the nation’s delicate recovery.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that a ‘very small number’ of those working in critical industries such as health care and defence could be exempt from quarantine to go to work. But Downing Street said that employers would have to apply for any quarantine exemption.
Isolation is only legally mandatory for those who are contacted by Test and Trace staff. But the prime minister’s office said it was ‘critical’ for people to isolate, whether they had been contacted through Test and Trace or the app. Businesses ‘should be supporting employees to isolate’, the office said.
Some have reported that the NHS app is overly sensitive, notifying neighbours to quarantine who have been separated by house walls.
Only one in five online Britons have the NHS Covid-19 app and are using it correctly, and still hundreds of thousands each week are asked to quarantine.
No 10 has shot down the idea of reducing the sensitivity of the app, saying it is a ‘consequence of living with COVID and opening up when cases are high’.
Mr Johnson was forced to do an about-face when he and finance minister Rishi Sunak drew backlash as they tried to escape isolation when pinged by the app after health minister Sajid Javid tested positive for Covid-19 at the weekend. The pair initially planned to make use of a pilot scheme that would have allowed them to continue working.
Conservative MP Richard Graham, tweeting from day 3 of ‘pinged self-isolation,’ called for clarity on whether vaccinated individuals needed to quarantine.
‘The media now reports ministers say self-isolation if pinged advisory not legal requirement,’ he said. ‘The nation needs clarity for all 2x dosed.’ Earlier this month, the PM announced that the fully vaccinated will not have to isolate if pinged by the app beginning on August 16.
Charles Walker, who has just stepped down as vice-chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, said that if the government were to ‘pretend’ an NHS ping meant a mandatory quarantine, the situation could get worse.
‘The legislation is the legislation,’ he told the BBC. ‘You can’t wish it to be what you want it to be, it is in legislation that if you’re pinged it’s advisory, if you’re test and traced it is compulsory and that’s the law.’
‘The problem is if the government tries to pretend it’s mandatory.’
He added: ‘You will probably get millions more people switching off the app and be in a worse position than if you allowed people to exercise some judgment. They don’t want to miss out on their summer holiday and the things they want to do with their family. That’s the problem the government’s got.’