Wedding planners say NHS Test and Track app ‘pingdemic’ threatens Britain’s summer wedding season

After 16 months of crippling restrictions, this summer’s frantically busy wedding season faces a fresh threat: the ‘pingdemic’. 

The threat of last-minute change and cancellations loom over the first restriction-free nuptials after ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, as a record-breaking 618,000 NHS Test and Track users were told to self isolate in England and Wales last week. 

Brides and grooms have been left hanging in the balance, while organisers, caterers, photographers and hairdressers feverishly prepare for a hectic season of ceremonies after many couples planning to marry last year, rescheduled for the 2021 season.

Anna Wills, a London-based wedding planner and events manager, warned that what should be a couple’s most memorable day of their lives was turning into ‘the most stressful day’ instead. 

In some cases best men are being required to perform speeches via Zoom after being ‘pinged’, while others live in desperate fear of having their big day cancelled. 

It comes as couples were instructed to quarantine for 10 days by Home Office minister Victoria Atkins if they are contacted through the NHS test and track app. 

With tens of thousands of pounds on the line, and everyone from brides and grooms to photographers and caterers left in the balance, some are opting to either delete or ignore the self-isolation app. 

With many weddings cancelled in 2020, this summer is set to be one of the busiest wedding seasons in recent memory

The threat of last-minute change and cancellations loom over the first restriction-free nuptials after 'Freedom Day' on July 19. [Stock picture]

The threat of last-minute change and cancellations loom over the first restriction-free nuptials after ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19. [Stock picture]

Anna Wills, of Arc Events, explained the fears that many suppliers and planners like herself are facing in the run up to huge scale weddings that they’ve been preparing for months.

‘It’s such a nightmare scenario we’re in, particularly with these events being planned over the last year or two.

‘If you’re working in the [wedding] industry, you’re having to be very, very careful at the moment.

‘The threat of being pinged at any moment is really scary. It would be incredibly sad to see these weddings and couples crushed.

‘Already, we’ve seen in some cases that lots of people, 10 or 15 in some cases, are dropping out of these events a day or two before. It’s incredibly sad.’

Anna says she recently planned one wedding in Oxfordshire where the two best men were ‘pinged’ by the app a day before the wedding.

The pair were forced to perform their best men speech via Zoom.  

Wedding planners say NHS Test and Track app 'pingdemic' threatens Britain's summer wedding season

Wedding planners say NHS Test and Track app 'pingdemic' threatens Britain's summer wedding season

Wedding planners say NHS Test and Track app 'pingdemic' threatens Britain's summer wedding season

Wedding planners say NHS Test and Track app 'pingdemic' threatens Britain's summer wedding season

Several people on social media pointed to the fact that they wouldn't be following the advice of the NHS Test and Trace App to self-isolate if 'pinged'

Several people on social media pointed to the fact that they wouldn’t be following the advice of the NHS Test and Trace App to self-isolate if ‘pinged’ 

With some weddings in luxury venues in the capital costing upwards of £50,000 – and over £100,000 in some cases, Anna explains there’s a huge financial risk lingering over brides and grooms-to-be. 

‘If you’re the bride or groom and you’re pinged the day before, and you’re trying to cancel that wedding… We’re talking tens of thousands of pounds in some cases.

‘You’re left hoping in the days before that tests or ‘pings’ are negative.

‘This is supposed to be the happiest days of people’s lives, and yet it’s now the most stressful day of their life.’  

Several people on social media pointed to the fact that they wouldn’t be following the advice of the NHS Test and Trace App to self-isolate if ‘pinged’.

And the impacts of the ‘pingdemic’ are already being felt in other industries, as BP petrol stations and Iceland stores were forced to close as fears mounted that up to 20 per cent of shop staff could be isolating ‘within weeks’.

One photographer who regularly works at luxury venues in the capital, explained that having a ‘normal’ wedding at the moment does not seem possible with the ‘pingdemic’ in full flow.

They said:  ‘If the NHS app keeps ‘pinging’ everyone, the whole notion of unlocking has been reversed.

‘The idea of having a ‘normal’ wedding at the moment is just an illusion.’

The photographer went on to explain that one wedding that has been planned for this weekend had up to 150 guests invited, but at least half of them were told to self-isolate due to the NHS Test and Track app.

They added: ‘I can’t think of a wedding that won’t be affected in some way – be it photographers, planners, catering or brides and grooms – by the test and trace app.’ 

Couples should call off their weddings if they get pinged by the NHS app the night before they are due to get married, Downing Street insisted last night.

During an interview, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins urged the public to isolate when pinged.

When asked on LBC if this would mean people should stay at home if notified by the app on the night before their wedding, she replied: ‘Oh gosh, the guidance is ‘please, you must stay at home’.

‘That is a terribly, terribly difficult scenario.’ 

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said couples should call off their weddings if they get pinged by the NHS app (above) the night before they are due to get married. [File image]

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said couples should call off their weddings if they get pinged by the NHS app (above) the night before they are due to get married. [File image]

One hairdresser, who does not wish to be named, says she has up to 60 wedding events booked in for the next six months as the industry prepares for a hectic summer season with many events rescheduled from 2020.

They explained that they have not downloaded the NHS Test and Track app over fears that being ‘pinged’ could cost them their livelihood during the busy summer wedding season. 

’90 per cent of hairdressers and make-up I know were still working during lockdown. A lot of us did smaller, family events with just 15 or 30 people maximum. 

‘Many of my clients are rescheduling last-minute after cancellations, or because they think we’ll all be in lockdown again by September.

‘Personally, I’m not on the app because I can’t afford to get ‘pinged’. I’d rather do lateral flow tests, which I’m doing four times a week.

‘I really expect brides and grooms to delete the app in the days or weeks running up to their weddings.’ 

Later, when questioned if the Prime Minister agreed with Ms Atkins’ statement, his spokesman said: ‘Yes. We recognise that would be a difficult situation for anyone but the app is carrying out an important function. 

‘We know that one in three people contacted either by Test and Trace or by the app go on to develop coronavirus symptoms so that demonstrates the importance of people isolating when asked to do so.’

But couples who are pinged may struggle to claim on their insurance depending on their policy.

Boris Johnson apologised yesterday for the inconvenience caused by the so-called ‘pingdemic’ but insisted he will not fast-track changes due to come in on August 16 where those who have received both coronavirus vaccine doses will no longer have to isolate.

As he took part in Prime Minister’s Questions by video from Chequers – where he is in quarantine after Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive for Covid – he said: ‘I think that everybody understands the inconvenience of being pinged… here I am, I wish I was with you in the Commons chamber today.’ 

He added: ‘I must remind everybody that isolation is a vital tool of our defence against the disease.’ 

‘I’m cancelling my weekends away so I don’t have to miss my friends’ weddings,’ says marketing boss, 33

Tom Bourlet, 33, from Brighton, says he's missing out on weekends with his friends because he fears being told to self-isolate

Tom Bourlet, 33, from Brighton, says he’s missing out on weekends with his friends because he fears being told to self-isolate

A marketing boss who plans to attend four weddings this summer says he’s effectively self-isolating because he fears having to miss the joyous events due to a ‘ping’ from the NHS Covid app.

Tom Bourlet, 33, from Brighton, says he’s missing out on weekends with his friends because he fears being told to self-isolate.

The marketing manager, who works for stag-do firm The Stag Company, says he will even turn down a quiet pub drink with friends within 10 days of one the weddings.

Mr Bourlet, who has already had Covid, told MailOnline: ‘My friend group are due to go to Bristol next week and I’ve had to turn it down. I wanted to go but I just didn’t want to risk it and get a notification. I was also due to go Cambridge in September but I’m not going to that either.

‘If a friend asked me if they wanted to go for a drink 10 days before I don’t think I would either.’

He added: ‘I think it’s the right thing to do, to isolate if you have really have genuinely been in close contact with someone… but I don’t trust the accuracy.

‘I worry about going into a barber and then because someone who comes in later then has Covid I might be told I have to isolate for 10 days and I might miss the wedding.’

Despite his worry, Mr Bourlet says both he and his girlfriend continue to use the app. And he says they will isolate if told to, even if that means missing a wedding – one of which involves his friend of 12 years.

But he added: ‘I do think it is a bit bizarre that you can go out clubbing and people like me have to worry about going down the road because of the risk of getting an notification.’


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