UK looking at COVID app changes due to self-isolation frustration - Sunak

FILE PHOTO: Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivers his 'Mansion House' speech at the Financial and Professional Services Address, previously known as the Bankers dinner, at Mansion House in London, Britain July 1, 2021. Stefan Rousseau/Pool via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) -British finance minister Rishi Sunak said the government was looking at changes to its COVID-19 app due to frustration among the public about the continued need for 10 days of self-isolation if it alerts them to a possible exposure to the virus.

The government plans to lift capacity restrictions on pubs, restaurants and other public events on July 19 in England, despite a surge in the number of COVID infections. Businesses fear many staff and customers will need to self-isolate.

From Aug. 16, people who have been fully vaccinated and children will no longer have to self-isolate after close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, health minister Sajid Javid said on Tuesday.

Sunak said he had spoken to Javid about people's frustrations in particular about people getting "pinged" and told to self-isolate through the mobile app after a contact with a COVID case.

A user is not legally required to self isolate when alerted by the app because all data is anonymous, nonetheless media reports suggest many people are deleting the app to avoid being asked to stay at home.

"What the health secretary is doing is that he has asked for advice on the app, so that we can see if there is a proportionate and balanced approach we can take," Sunak told LBC radio.

Sunak said he also appreciated people's frustration with the situation and that it was part of balanced approach to reopening that he was taking along with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"We want to make sure we see an appropriate degree of caution," Sunak told Sky News.

"These are big changes that mean we will have a huge degree of freedom back. I appreciate people’s frustration but I would also urge them to look at the positives as well."

(Reporting by Paul Sandle, writing by David Milliken and Alistair Smout; editing by William James)

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