Hertfordshire councillors told not to attend council meetings if ‘pinged’ by NHS app

Councillors told ‘to avoid any confusion or inconsistency’ if they receive a notification from the App or from NHS Test and Trace they should self-isolate immediately

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 2:02 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd July 2021, 2:14 pm

County councillors have been formally advised that they must isolate – and NOT attend county council meetings – if they have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS ‘Test and Trace’ app.

On Tuesday, July 20, a number of councillors left an all-day meeting of Hertfordshire County Council after it emerged that two attending councillors had been ‘pinged’ by the app.

One of those councillors is believed to have received the alert AFTER the meeting had started.

Councillors told not to attend council meetings if ‘pinged’ by NHS app

But a second councillor is believed to have received the alert in advance.

Both councillors left the meeting before the afternoon session of the meeting began.

And councillors were advised that the meeting – which was being conducted in a Covid safe environment – could continue.

Nevertheless, a number of councillors opted to leave the meeting – which was held at the Gordon Craig Theatre, in Stevenage – as the first debate of the afternoon was about to start.

Now Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus has written to all county councillors to inform them that – if they are told to self-isolate by the NHS app – they must do so immediately.

The communication acknowledges that public health teams have the powers to withdraw or override instructions to self-isolate – upon assessment of specific individual circumstances.

It says this has included instances where the original instruction had been made in error – or the dates of the isolation period have been calculated inaccurately.

And this is said to have been the case with the councillor who was ‘pinged’ in advance of the meeting on Tuesday – which was deemed to have been received ‘in error’ following a risk assessment by the public health team.

But Mr McManus tells councillors that ‘to avoid any confusion or inconsistency’ if they receive a notification from the App or from NHS Test and Trace they should self-isolate immediately.

They must, says the communication, remain isolated until the App confirms their period of isolation has concluded.

And, it says – where NHS Test and Trace or a local contact tracing agent contacts them as part of an outbreak investigation – the isolation must also include any further period given by Test and Trace.

In a further statement, Hertfordshire County Council has now confirmed that the ‘ping’ request to self-isolate issued to a councillor in advance of the meeting had been deemed to be an ‘error’.

Commenting on the circumstances the spokesperson said: “Hertfordshire County Council arranged its council meeting with appropriate covid precautions including social distancing and advising mask wearing.

“Pings from the NHS Covid app were received by two councillors who were attending the meeting.

“The first was received over a week before the meeting and following a specific risk assessment by Hertfordshire’s Public Health team the alert was deemed to have been received in error.

“A second councillor received a ping during the meeting itself. They sought advice and subsequently the councillor left the meeting.

“Following the clarification provided by the government yesterday any councillor pinged by the app should self-isolate immediately.”