'Across the industry we think one in five of our team members have been affected by this'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Hospitality business owners across the UK are calling for a revision of the NHS Test and Trace model as the sector is burdened by the high cost of the current self-isolation rules, leading many to close temporarily at short notice. 

The term 'pingdemic' was coined to describe the phenomenon sweeping the UK and is thought to be disproportionately affecting the hospitality industry, as the current rules mandate that anyone having been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 must self-isolate for ten days - at the risk of being fined £1,000 for failing to do so.

According to The Telegraph, latest figures for the week to July 7 showed that 530,126 alerts were sent out by the government's contact tracing app, requiring people to self-isolate. This represented a 46 percent increase on the previous week, meaning that number will almost inevitably be higher given the continued rise in coronavirus cases across the UK.

Greene King CEO Nick Mackenzie told City AM that 33 of the group's pubs have had to close in the last seven days due to staff shortages, leading him to call for "clarity" and for the government "to move to a test and release scheme to get us back to normal again." 

“Across the industry we think one in five of our team members have been affected by this," he said. 

It's not just hospitality that is affected, as vast swathes of the economy are being slowed down due to staff absences - everywhere from retail to public transport, factories, council services (including waste collection) and even ports.

However, the news comes as the response to the long-promised 'Freedom Day' is a lot more mitigated than hoped - with ongoing guidance for hospitality businesses to operate with safety measures in place, and many Britons who would rather wait longer before going back to parties, nightclubs and crowded places

As hospitality is staffed by a younger demographic than many other industries it has been particularly hard hit, especially as holidaygoers flock to tourist hotspots in the UK. 

Jack Stein, Rick Stein's son and chef director of Stein Restaurants called the app "ludicrous," himself having been forced to self-isolate for ten days after a half an hour lunch at a restaurant in Devon, having had to close one of the group's Padstow restaurants due to short staff, as well as reducing operating hours and covers at the flagship restaurant. 

“Last summer at the height of the pandemic we didn’t have a single member of staff go anywhere because of Covid and this year you just can’t carry on," he told The Telegraph

"We have had to shut restaurants; we’ve lost revenue. I was all in favour of the lockdowns but now I just think it’s ridiculous.

“This Track and Trace is really winding me up.”

Freedom day, take two

A test and release scheme has been set to begin on August 16th, after which all double-vaccinated individuals, as well as under 18s will be exempt from self-isolating if they are a named close contact of someone who has caught the virus, instead undergoing five days of tests. 

A pilot of the scheme - which Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said they were part of when they were asked to self-isolate following Health Secretary Sajid Javid's testing positive for Covid-19 on Friday, before making a U-Turn and agreeing to self-isolate - is already underway, and UK Hospitality leader Kate Nicholls has called for it to be brought forward ahead of the August date to relieve pressure on the industry. 

 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 19th July 2021

'Across the industry we think one in five of our team members have been affected by this'