We're all getting pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app left, right and centre, but what are the new rules on self-isolating, and who is exempt?

In the week ending 21 July 2021, over 650,000 self-isolation alerts were sent in England and Wales by the NHS Covid-19 app, Test and Trace (via BBC News).

Referred to as the ‘pingdemic’, the spike in self-isolation alerts comes after the vast majority of restrictions were lifted in England on ‘Freedom Day‘ (19 July 2021).

The NHS Covid-19 app sends anonymous alerts if you have been in ‘close contact’ with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. A close contact is officially defined by GOV.UK as, “a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.”

Here’s everything you need to know if you’ve been pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app:

Which workers won’t need to self-isolate?

According to GOV.UK, there are a “small number of situations where the self-isolation of close contacts would result in serious disruption to critical services.” In these situations, a “limited number of named workers may be able to leave self-isolation under specific controls for the purpose of undertaking critical work only.”

Employers providing critical services can request an exemption for fully-vaccinated named employees. According to BBC News, this applies to the following areas:

  • Energy
  • Civil nuclear
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Food production and supply
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Veterinary medicines
  • Essential chemicals
  • Essential transport
  • Medicines and medical devices
  • Clinical consumable supplies
  • Emergency services
  • Border control
  • Essential defence outputs
  • Local government
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There are separate rules for fully-vaccinated frontline health and care staff who’ve been identified as a close contact of someone with coronavirus, which allow them to attend work, subject to testing procedures.

In some cases, supermarket depot workers and food manufacturers in England will also be exempt from quarantine restrictions. The government is currently trialling a scheme whereby workers in food manufacturing businesses can get tested daily.

Note: this does not apply if you have tested positive or are displaying symptoms of coronavirus. If this is the case, you still need to self-isolate.

It is expected that all fully-vaccinated people who’ve been in close contact with someone whose tested positive for coronavirus will be exempt from self-isolating rules from 16 August 2021.

What happens if I am ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app?

If you’re pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app you are advised – although not legally obliged – to self-isolate. Downing Street has said it’s “crucial” to self-isolate if you’ve been pinged.

However, if you’ve been directly contacted by NHS Test and Trace, you must self-isolate.

If you work in a critical industry, your employer can request an exemption, providing you have been fully-vaccinated for at least two weeks.

Will I still be paid if I have to self-isolate?

A £500 grant is available in England to people on low incomes who have to self-isolate. You may also be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, which worth at least £96.35 a week.

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Do I still need to isolate if I’m fully vaccinated?

For now, yes. However, it’s expected that from 16 August 2021 you’ll be exempt from self-isolation rules if you’ve been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks.

What does self-isolating mean?

According to the NHS, you must self-isolate if:

  • You have any symptoms of COVID-19 (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • You’ve tested positive for COVID-19 – this means you have the virus
  • Someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive
  • you’ve been told you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive – find out what to do if you’re told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
  • You have arrived in England from abroad from a ‘red list’ country, or from an ‘amber list’ country and not been fully vaccinated – see GOV.UK: how to quarantine when you arrive in England

The NHS adds that if you’re self-isolating you must follow these rules:

  • Do not go to work, school or public places – work from home if you can
  • Do not go on public transport or use taxis
  • Do not go out to get food and medicine – order it online or by phone, or ask someone to bring it to your home
  • Do not have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for people providing essential care
  • Do not go out to exercise – exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one.
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For more from Glamour UK’s Lucy Morgan, follow her on Instagram @lucyalexxandra.


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