Pingdemic chaos continues as rail services and tourist sites are hit

Pingdemic chaos: Marks and Spencer could shut early, rail services are axed, the post is hit, National Trust house closes, MOT bookings pile up and business close as millions go into Covid isolation

  • Rail services in north of England and parts of Wales are being impacted today
  • Pubs bosses have also expressed frustration at having to close due to isolation
  • Meanwhile, garage bosses warn of an MOT backlog due to staff facing isolation
  • It comes as TfL yesterday closed the Metropolitan Line due to staff shortages

Britain’s ‘pingdemic’ chaos is spreading today with more businesses announcing temporary closures and services facing delays due to the growing number of staff being told to self-isolate.

Rail users in the north of England and parts of Wales are being warned of delays today – after a London tube line was closed entirely yesterday – due to a shortage of drivers and front line staff.

Pubs, many of which are ramping-up staffing levels ahead of Monday’s ‘Freedom Day’, are temporarily closing due to staff being ordered into isolation by the NHS Covid-19 app. 

Hair salons, which are still recovering from months of lockdown, are also having to close, along with sports facilities, while Royal Mail sorting offices have also been hit.

Garden waste collections in some areas have been suspended to allow isolation-hampered council staff to focus on waste bins.

Meanwhile, as temperatures soar to 86F in some parts of England, some tourist attractions are having to close due to a lack of staff. 

And today warnings were issued of an MOT backlog, with garages having to mass cancel bookings due to their mechanics being forced into isolation.

It comes as Transport for London (TfL) was yesterday forced to shut the Metropolitan tube line amid staff shortages.  

M&S bosses also warned last night that store hours may have to be cut with up to one in five supermarket staff forced into Covid isolation.

Around 1.8million people were asked to self-isolate last week in England, data suggests. That includes 194,000 people who tested positive, 520,000 who were ‘pinged’ by the app, almost 340,000 who were contacted directly by Test and Trace, and 750,000 schoolchildren 

Up to 1million people were asked to self-isolate last week, data suggests. But that figure could hit 5.6million by the end of the month, if cases spiral by 75 per cent every week (right), according to MailOnline analysis. Separate projections based on a growth rate of 40 per cent – similar to what Test and Trace reported last week – still says the number of people self-isolating could hit 3million a week. But the true figure will be much lower because many people who are told to self-isolate end up testing positive, and some people will be flagged down by both NHS Test and Trace and the app

M&S boss warns store hours may have to be cut with up to one in five supermarket staff forced into Covid isolation in Freedom Day ‘pingdemic’ chaos 

The boss of Marks and Spencer has warned that store hours may have to be cut amid Covid ‘pingdemic’ chaos in the wake of ‘Freedom Day’ next week.

Steve Rowe said the number of test and trace app ‘pings’ is growing exponentially – at about three times the rate of Coivd cases – and that by mid-August as many as one in five supermarket workers could be in home isolation.

‘If there’s shortages we’ll have to manage it by changing hours of stores [and] reducing hours,’ he said.

His warning comes amid fears of food shortages when supply chain workers such as lorry drivers inevitably caught in the track and trace net, meaning supplies rot before they can be sold.

Tesco told ministers last month that 48 tons of food was being binned every week due to a driver shortage, a situation that is bound to be made worse when almost all Covid restrictions are lifted on Monday.

The NHS test and trace app has been in use since last year, sending alerts to ‘close contacts’ of Covid cases and telling them to self-isolate to reduce the risk of asymptomatic infection.

But, until the development of vaccines, high case numbers meant lockdowns – reducing the number of contacts each person had and therefore the chances of them getting ‘pinged’.

Now, with vaccines keeping hospital admissions down, the government is content to let cases rise significantly while allowing people to resume near-normal daily activities with lots of social contact – a combination that will massively increase the number of ‘pings’ the app sends out.

Staff shortages at ports and in the meat industry mean supermarket shelves could be left empty, with supply chains badly affected

And Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary, yesterday claimed the app needs to be changed, adding that a quarter of junior doctors are currently in isolation.

Ministers have said the lifting of restrictions on Monday is likely to push daily infections to more than 100,000, which could force around half a million a day to self-isolate.

Today, services on Northern trains are being disrupted. Customers are being advised not to travel between Sheffield and Leeds via Moorthorpe, between Leeds and Doncaster, from Sheffield to Lincoln and between Sheffield and York because of delays.

They are also warning passengers of busier than usual services on coastal routes as Britons flock to the beach today with temperatures set to soar.

In an alert issued today:  ‘A number of front-line staff have either tested positive for COVID or having to self-isolate. 

‘Due to this, there will be a number of alterations on some Northern routes today.

‘In addition, Northern are also expecting busier services at popular leisure spots and routes out to the coast. 

‘Where possible, please try not to rely on the last service of the day.’

There are also reduced Transport of Wales services in the Cardiff area today due to a ‘shortage of train drivers’ – though the alert does not specifically say this is due to Covid isolation.

Meanwhile, more pubs are having to close due to a lack of staff. It comes as restrictions are set to be lifted tomorrow in what has been dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ in England.

One pub owner, Steve Lomas, who runs Suffolk-based pub chain Deben Inns, took to Twitter to share his frustration.

He said: ‘Nine staff pinged, nine negative tests over five days and there still unable to come out of isolation. Business closed. 

‘Surely this is preposterous and is certainly unsustainable?’ 

O’Neills in Reading, meanwhile, has now closed following a Covid-19 outbreak.

The pub had a sign on its front door, which reads: ‘Unfortunately, following the return of positive Covid-19 tests within the team, and being instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, we are closing the pub for a short time as a precautionary measure.’

It adds: ‘We’re sorry for any disappointment this may cause, but we’d like to thank our guests and our team for their support shown and we look forward to welcoming you back soon.’

Also in Reading, residents were told this on Friday that they will not have their garden waste collected for at least the next two weeks after several staff from the council’s waste team were forced to self-isolate. 

Meanwhile, a salon in West Yorkshire announced it was having to close due to an outbreak. Empire Hair salon, near Halifax, said on Facebook: ‘ It’s took me a day to write this but I have had to close the doors for now at Empire.

‘We have one staff member isolating, one showing symptoms and awaiting results.

‘I felt for the safety of all our clients, and our staff I have decided to close our doors until we all have our tests results back, obviously hoping we won’t have to self isolate.’

Today the National Trust announced that one of its sites is having to close due to staff shortages caused by isolation.

Announcing a temporary close of Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire, the trust said: ‘Due partly to some staff self-isolating and awaiting results, mean the house will be temporarily closed on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 July. 

‘The garden, woodland and tea room will remain open for visitors to enjoy. Thank you for your support.’

It comes as Royal Mail warned earlier this week of postal delays in the Peterborough earlier this week due to staff having to self-isolate.  

A Royal Mail spokesperson told the Peterborough Telegraph: ‘A number of colleagues are self-isolating at the Orton Southgate Delivery Office following a positive case of COVID-19. We wish our colleague a speedy recovery.

‘This temporary impact on staffing levels may result in some disruption to services and we apologise to any impacted customers in advance. We are working hard to restore normal service levels as quickly as possible.’

There is also now concern about delays to MOT services due to garage staff having to self-isolate due to the NHS Covid-19 app.

Jonathan Barbera, founder of Parkers MOT said concerns over staff catching the illness was now the ‘biggest problem’ facing garages.   

Speaking to, he said: ‘It’s the biggest problem we’ve got so far. We’ve really tightened everything at work to try and avoid this.

‘The problem is if one of them gets pinged then everyone else who they have come into contact with will also need to go into isolation.’  

It comes as yesterday a London Tube line had to be suspended and two others partially closed due to a staff shortage triggered by workers being told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app. 

The Metropolitan line is suspended for rest of Saturday while the District and Piccadilly lines are partially closed until 9pm 

The mass disruption tot the Tube network came after control room staff were alerted by the NHS Covid app on Saturday morning

Boris is contacted by test and trace over meeting with Covid-infected Sajid Javid – but the PM will AVOID isolation by using trial scheme while hundreds of thousands of ordinary Brits get ‘pinged’ 

Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have avoided going into self-isolation despite close contact with Sajid Javid, who has Covid, Downing Street confirmed today.

The two most senior politicians in the Government are to use a little-known pilot scheme which allows people out of self-isolation every day of they pass a lateral flow test to continue working.

The Health Secretary triggered fears of a disruptive ‘pingdemic’ striking at the heart of Government after reveling yesterday he has tested positive.

Mr Javid had visited the Commons and Downing Street in previous days – and is understood to have held a lengthy face-to-face meeting with Boris Johnson just before his symptoms developed – sparking concerns that senior figures across Whitehall would have to be confined to home.

One insider warned that ‘half the Cabinet’ could be in isolation by the end of the week.

But this morning No10 said Mr Johnson would take advantage of the scheme not widely available to the public, leading to accusations they were using a ‘VIP lane’ while ordinary families struggled.

‘The Prime Minister and Chancellor have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace as contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid’, a spokesman said.

‘They will be participating in the daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street. They will be conducting only essential government business during this period.’

The move triggered a furious backlash as rules forcing close associates of Covid cases to self-isolate for 10 days threaten to bring Britain to its knees.

The NHS has warned of staff shortages, unions say factories could start closing with in days and there are fears over some food supplies.

Yesterday parts of the London Underground were forced to cease running due to a lack of staff.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the situation would infuriate workers and hard-pressed parents.

‘For many of them, waking up this morning to hear that there is a special rule, an exclusive rule, for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, they will be saying that this looks like one rule for them and something else for the rest of us,’ he told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday.


The Metropolitan Line was not running yesterday after control room staff received an alert from the app this morning telling them to stay at home.

Services on the Piccadilly and District line were also affected, with partial closures to last until at least 9pm yesterday.

It comes as industry bosses are warning that Britain faces food shortages with shops being closed early and bins not emptied for ten weeks if urgent action is not taken to address the so-called ‘pingdemic’.  

Richard Jones, London Underground’s head of network operations, said: ‘Due to a shortage of control room staff who are having to self-isolate following notification this morning via the Test and Trace app, there will be no service on the Metropolitan line for the rest of the day.

‘This will also impact the Piccadilly line with no service between South Harrow and Uxbridge and no service on the District line between High Street Kensington and Edgware.

‘Services are expected to resume on the Piccadilly and District lines at 9pm this evening.

‘We apologise to customers for the disruption. London Underground tickets will be accepted on local bus services.’ 

The suspension to Tube services comes after warnings to the Government over a ‘surge’ in workers and medics being forced into self-isolation over coronavirus contacts when most restrictions end in England on Monday.

Transport unions have said there will be ‘dire consequences’ next week when staff are ‘pinged’ as the level of infections rise.

It comes after Transport for London (TfL) had to scramble to find cover on the day of the Euro 2020 final, after a staff shortage due to workers being ‘pinged’ risked the Bakerloo line having to be suspended an hour before kick-off. 

Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) general secretary Mick Lynch previously warned that Monday ‘will see a surge in workers pinged with a self-isolation instruction next week’.

‘Even at this late stage, the Government, the train operators and the bus companies should issue a clear, legally backed instruction that levels up the rest of the UK to the safety standards that will remain in force in Wales and Scotland,’ he said.

Elsewhere in the country, passengers were warned of alterations on some Northern routes this weekend due to a number of front-line staff either testing positive for Covid-19 or having to self-isolate.

According to the National Rail Enquiries website, trains may be cancelled in both directions on services connecting Huddersfield, Sheffield and Lincoln, Sheffield with Leeds, Retford and York and between Leeds and Doncaster.

Meanwhile, West Midlands Trains warned yesterday that the number of staff having to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app had ‘quadrupled’ in recent weeks, leading to ‘trains being cancelled at short notice and fewer carriages being available on some services’.

The Metropolitan Line suspension in London today came as Wembley Stadium, near to Wembley Park station on the north-west section of the line, prepared to host thousands of fans for the rugby league Challenge Cup final at 3pm.

The station is also serviced by the Jubilee line which was still running, while Wembley Stadium and Wembley Central stations are also near the ground. 

It follows estimates which suggest the UK economy is expected to be hit by £4billion in losses after it reopens fully on Monday’s ‘Freedom Day’ because workers are being forced to stay at home after being told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app.

Marks and Spencer said it will be forced to reduce its opening hours and because of the sheer number of staff told to remain at home after coming into contact with an infected person. 

Staff shortages at ports and in the meat industry mean supermarket shelves could be left empty, with supply chains badly affected 

The number of alerts sent out in relation to venues also more than doubled in seven days

And Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary, today claimed the app needs to be changed, adding that a quarter of junior doctors are currently in isolation.

Ministers have said the lifting of restrictions on Monday is likely to push daily infections to more than 100,000, which could force around half a million a day to self-isolate. 

Analysis by MailOnline suggests that in a worst-case scenario around six million adults could be in isolation by the end of the month. 

Britain’s daily infection toll breached 50,000 yesterday for the first time since January. Anyone who tests positive is told to self-isolate and has their contacts traced. 

But because the Bluetooth phone app ‘pings’ all those who have been in close contact with positive cases, the number of people self-isolating at home at any one time is far higher.

Unlike those people contacted by phone, it is not a legal requirement to self-isolate after being pinged by the app. But Downing Street today made it clear it expects people to do so. 

It raises the prospect of the economy grinding to a halt due to a chronic lack of available workers, even after the lockdown is supposed to have ended . 

Business leaders and trade unionists from across all sector of the economy lined up to warn the Government that a major rethink is needed, because the current situation is not sustainable. 

A fifth of all private sector workers are currently having to self-isolate, according to industrial analysis.    

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