We need a sensible way through this ‘pingdemic’ | Blaise Tapp

Last Friday was pretty routine by any standard: a day spent battling exhaustion while hitting various deadlines, with the thought of a glorious weekend pulling me towards the finishing line.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 5:21 pm
An alert on the official NHS Covid-19 Test and Trace app. Picture: Getty Images.

Then the ping came. Well, I say a ping, it was more a publicly funded raspberry that put paid to any plans I had for the hottest weekend of the year.

I’m not sure what made me go into my NHS app of doom, maybe it was the news report on my talking speaker which informed the listener that, in just one week, an estimated 500,000 plus people had been told to self isolate as they had been ‘exposed’ to coronavirus.

The especially morose sounding newsreader went on to say that there had been reports that people had been pinged through their walls, rather like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movies.

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All I know, it was at that point that I instinctively picked up my phone, clicked on the said app, and found the most unwelcome message I have received since the text confirming the time and date of my vasectomy.

The message contained lots of important-looking information but all I noticed were the words ‘five days’ and ‘self isolation’.

My immediate instinct was to feel an overwhelming sense of injustice that this had happened, despite the fact that I have had both jabs, have had several recent negative tests, don’t really venture anywhere other than out for the morning school run and a twice-weekly visit to the shops, when I, of course, wear a mask and make a point of keeping my distance.

Despite the fact that I am a leading exponent of idle chit chat, I have mastered the art of a quick ‘hello, how are you?’ when negotiating the chilled section of my local supermarket, as part of my constant attempts to retain my liberty.

On this occasion, however, my efforts were all in vain and it wasn’t long before I was trying to work out who the infected person was that I had enjoyed meaningful contact with.

It was easy to rule out people I knew because on the weekend in question – the weekend of English Euro 2020 anguish – was spent only in the company of close family so it was left for me to adopt AC-12 mode and draw up a list of suspects.

It didn’t take me long to work out that it must’ve been the people standing either side of me as we queued up for ice creams at the beach and my money is on the harassed looking woman with at least eight kids, for no other reason than hers was the longest order of soft scoops and Soleros in modern history.

But all this took place outside while I queued up, at a social distance, to be relieved of nearly £15 for five ice creams and a drink – we are repeatedly told that being outside reduces the risk of coronavirus being passed on.

I wouldn’t have minded had I, rather than spending the day digging holes and building sandcastles, caught the train up to London, cavorted with strangers in Leicester Square, and stuck a flare where the sun will never shine. But I didn’t, I went to the beach.

I am in good company as track and trace is now working at such a feverish rate that this current predicament that we find ourselves in has a name – a pingdemic.

Supermarkets have had to reduce opening hours and car production has been impacted due to the large numbers of workers who have been pinged.

I’m lucky as I can do what I do from here at my kitchen table but millions ca n’t, which is why the government needs to do more to get the workforce back into their factories and offices quickly and safely.

There is no point in celebrating our newfound freedoms if people who have followed the rules are being penalised for doing so.