United Kingdom

London Underground chaos as Circle, Hammersmith & City lines CLOSED over ‘pingdemic’

As coronavirus cases surge in the UK, self-isolation rules have forced 300 Tube workers to quarantine after being “pinged” by the NHS Covid app. More than 600,000 people across England have been told to self-isolate after coming into contact with positive Covid cases, causing havoc in all sectors.

Andy Lord, London Underground managing director, apologised for the closure of both tube lines.

He said: “We apologise to customers for the impact on Tube services, while we deal with staff shortages across the network due to self-isolation.

“We are committed to running a frequent and reliable service, but with a reduced number of staff available it’s not always possible.

“I’d encourage anyone travelling in the coming days to check before they travel and thank them for bearing with us during this difficult time.”

Thameslink and Southern Rail have also been forced to cut its weekday timetables on five routes from Monday “until further notice” – and warned further changes could be required, including at weekends.

Steve White, chief operating officer at parent company Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “Regrettably, we have had to make the difficult decision to reduce some weekday services.

“Unfortunately, like other industries across the country, coronavirus continues to affect our operations.

“We have fewer colleagues available at the moment due to a significant increase recently in the number of our people affected by Covid-19.”

Avanti West Coast is also cutting trains from Monday on its routes between London Euston and Manchester, Birmingham and North Wales.

A spokesman said this is to “manage staff shortages and ensure a reliable service”.

London Northwestern Railway will introduce a revised timetable with fewer services from Saturday.

The firm’s customer experience director Lawrence Bowman said: “We are experiencing more (trains being cancelled), across all our services, as increasing numbers of staff are getting pinged by the Test and Trace app.

“We are sorry that we have had to make the decision to alter some services.”

In response to the staffing shortage from self-isolation, the Government has released a list of 16 sectors where fully vaccinated workers may be exempt from isolation.

The sectors include energy, civil nuclear, digital infrastructure, food production and supply, waste, water, veterinary medicines, essential chemicals, essential transport, medicines, medical devices, clinical consumable supplies, emergency services, border control, essential defence outputs, and local Government.

The Government said “this is not a blanket exemption for all workers in a sector” and the guidance published on Thursday evening stressed the process “will not cover all or in most cases even the majority of workers in critical sectors”.

On Thursday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitted the government is “very concerned” about the number of people being pinged by the NHS app. 

Speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley about plans the Government will drop self-isolation rules for the double-jabbed and under-18s from August 16, he said: “I’m confident but I can’t guarantee that.”

“As I always say, we always review the information the week before and then we make the decision.

“I think a week before August 16 we will be able to make a decision as to whether restrictions will be lifted.”

Boris Johnson also apologised to businesses “up and down the land” who are experiencing the “inconvenience” of being pinged by the app during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.


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