More than 600,000 people were ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales last week.
Data shows that 618,90 self-isolation alerts were sent between 8 and 15 July – a 17 per cent rise on the previous week.
Ministers have been forced to urge businesses to follow the isolation advice, after a boss of a food distributor revealed he was asking delivery drivers to take tests over quarantining.
The government has said a “very narrow” list of sectors whose workers will be exempt from isolation on Thursday, as the so-called ‘pingdemic’ causes chaos for businesses across the country.
Despite #DeleteTheApp trending on Twitter on Thursday, downloads of it continued to rise – jumping to 26,826,748 from 26,523,853 the previous week.
A recent YouGov poll found that one in ten users have deleted the app having previously installed it – with those aged between 18 and 24 most likely to have done so.
Downing Street had suggested this week that there would be no list of sectors whose fully-vaccinated workers could face loosened isolation restrictions to prevent staff shortages.
But in the face of mounting pressure, Kwarteng said: “We’re looking at different sectors and we will be publishing today the sectors that will be affected.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “I don’t think it’s a question of applying for this”, despite No 10 having said businesses need to apply to government departments.
Kwarteng said he would not “pre-empt” the list when asked if the food industry would be on it, amid pleas from bosses to prevent major staff shortages as Covid-19 cases soar.
But he told BBC Breakfast the list would be “very narrow, simply because we don’t want to get into a huge debate about who is exempt
‘Exponential rise in pinging’
Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker, said the supermarket was having to hire 2,000 temporary workers to prepare for “the exponential rise in pinging”.
Walker told Today: “The dramatic pictures that you might have seen in the media are isolated incidents and not widespread.
“But the people who should be panicking are the government, and I believe that, you know, the sooner they clear up this mess, and get retail workers and HGV drivers on to the key worker list, the better.”
Kwarteng responded: “He was right to say shoppers shouldn’t be panicking. I don’t quite know what he meant that the government should be panicking, I’m not panicking.”
Related: Don’t panic buy! Supermarkets urge customers to keep their cool