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Did you have an 'appy Freedom Day in Suffolk? Or did you get caught in the 'pingdemic'

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, sang Janis Joplin in 1971.

And it felt that way on Monday, as I was waiting outside a newsagents on my way to work.

A grey-haired lady sidled up alongside, and with furrowed brow, said rather superciliously, indicating I should actually be in the shop, despite a queue inside: It’s Freedom Day.

Thousands of people were pinged this week. Picture iStock
Thousands of people were pinged this week. Picture iStock

“Yes but you still need to be cautious,” I replied, from under my mask.

She then barged passed, maskless, and stormed inside to pick up her Daily Telegraph.

Freedom Day, for me, at least, got off to a very confusing start, and I suspect for a lot of others too.

Confusion has been a constant theme throughout this pandemic, and no more so, than now.

To make matters worse, we learn at the same time as we are ‘free’, thousands of people are also being ‘pinged’ and effectively sent immediately back into isolation.

Around 530,000 people in England and Wales were sent alerts by the NHS Covid-19 tracing app in the first week of July, advising them to self-isolate for up to 10 days.

The rates of infection have soared since then, meaning the number of people pinged in the run-up to the school holidays will be significantly higher.

UK industries have been warning of impending ‘disaster’ as staff are sent into isolation, with Greene King temporarily closing 33 pubs, Iceland shutting stores, and warning - pings can only get worse.

Analysis carried out by the BBC suggests 4.5 million people could be asked to self-isolate by August 16, after which the fully vaccinated will no longer be asked to do so.

Personally, I been suffering from ‘ping paranoia’ – as we face a possible Ping-mageddon.

Ministers themselves also appear to be confused. On Tuesday morning, Paul Scully, the business minister, said that it was up to individuals to make informed decisions about whether to isolate when pinged by the app.

Downing Street moved swiftly to contradict him, saying it was ‘crucial’ to isolate when notified either by either NHS Test and Trace or by the NHS Covid app, to stop the spread of the virus.

And that’s of course, if you even have it.

According to a survey by YouGov, just over one-fifth of people have downloaded the NHS Covid app and are using it correctly. The survey suggests most people are either ‘abusing’ the app, have deleted it, or never downloaded it in the first place.

The same survey also suggests four in 10 Brits won’t self-isolate after their NHS app pings, and app deserters are more likely to be in the younger age group, with 17 per cent of those aged 18-24 deleting it altogether.

So where does this leave us?

In exactly the same state as before: enduring a chaotic, constant stop-start approach to this pandemic, never-ending changes, all underlined by hopelessly poor communications.

Freedom never tasted so bitter-sweet.

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