Check-ins on NHS Covid app plummet 94% in Sheffield - while infections and venue pings rise

The number of people checking-in at venues and pubs on the NHS Covid app has plunged 94 per cent in Sheffield in the month since it stopped being a requirement.

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 10:54 am

Mandatory check-ins for pubs, restaurants and other venues were dropped in England on 19 July – dubbed ‘freedom day’ – when many restrictive lockdown measures ended across the country.

While venues and the public are still “strongly encouraged” to check-in, new data shows in reality the NHS Covid app has become an afterthought.

In Sheffield, the QR code scanning feature was used to check-in to venues 79,632 times in the week ending July 21, after ‘Freedom Day’.

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The NHS Covid app has recorded a 94 per cent drop in check ins at venues sincce "Freedom Day" July. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

In the week ended September 1, this number plummeted to 5,125 – a drop of 94 per cent.

In fact, even in just the first week after checking-in became ”strongly encouraged” rather than required, 57,000 less check-ins were recorded, a drop of 71 per cent.

The budget allocated to the UK’s Test and Trace system for its first two years is a reported £37billion. In it’s first year, it spent £13.5billion.

Meanwhile, national figures – collected by National World’s data team – show the number of NHS app check-ins rapidly declined following the lifting of restrictions, from 6.8 million in the week ending 21 July to 2.4 million the next week.

But analysis of NHS data shows the number of people using the QR code scanning feature has continued to drop sharply, just as cases started to climb.

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In the week ending 1 September, just 644,502 people checked into a venue. That was down by 125,000, or 16%, on the week before, and by 1.1 million, or 64%, on the week ending 4 August.

At the same time, the number of venues about which the app sent an alert – meaning a customer or staff member has tested positive, posing a risk to others present – rose by 50%, from 757 to 1,139.

There had been as many as 1,432 venue alerts sent in the week ending 18 August.

Decreased use but more pings means a greater concentration of risk – and fewer people being warned about that risk.

Government guidance says that while it is no longer a legal requirement, businesses such as pubs, restaurants, bars and nightclubs in England should continue to ask customers to check-in.

Venues may also store customer details manually, without asking them to check in with the NHS app.

A DHSC spokesperson said the NHS app is a “key tool” in the pandemic response, and had prevented up to 2,000 Covid cases per day in July, broken chains of transmission, and saved thousands of lives.

“Venues are no longer legally required to ask customers and visitors to check in, however venues are strongly encouraged to do so to help stop the spread of the virus, protect society and support businesses to stay open,” they said.

“The more people check in, either by using the NHS app or by providing their contact details, the better protected we all are, as people can be alerted if they are at risk.”