Britain Is Having a 'Pingdemic'

British app pings to let people know they've been in close contact with infected person
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2021 9:56 AM CDT
World's New COVID Term: 'Pingdemic'
People wear face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus during the morning rush hour at Waterloo train station in London on July 14.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The Germans have "mindestabstandsregelung." Now the Brits have a new word of their own born of the coronavirus: "pingdemic." The details:

  • The word: Pingdemic refers to the constant pinging of smartphones currently taking place across the country in regard to COVID, reports the BBC. A contact-tracing app introduced by the National Health Service alerts people with a ping when they've come into close contact with someone who has the virus. (Users opt-in to the service.) If they get a ping, people are urged to self-isolate for 10 days.

  • The spread: Phones are pinging so much because of a double-whammy: Cases are surging because of the delta variant and people are moving around more because the government relaxed restrictions. As a result, an estimated 1.7 million people in a nation of 67 million were voluntarily isolating as of this week, reports the Washington Post.
  • Shortages: The large number of people isolating has led to bare shelves in supermarkets because so many staffers are staying home, reports Reuters. (British newspapers were playing up those bare shelves with front-page photographs.) A meat industry group warned that food supply chains are "right on the edge of failing." All kinds of other industries are similarly struggling, from fuel suppliers to hospitality to manufacturing.
  • Voluntary: People are not required to download the app, nor are they required to self-isolate if they receive a ping. The Post notes that isolation is mandatory only if contract-tracing is conducted the "old-fashioned" way, through interviews with infected people. Complaints have surfaced that the app is too sensitive, and Reuters reports that many people are simply deleting it to avoid any hassles.
(More COVID-19 stories.)

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