Pubs forced to close as staff required to isolate

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Sensitive app: staff are being asked to isolate despite using PPE when approaching customers, Steve Alton, CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) lamented (image: William Rodrigues dos Santos)
Sensitive app: staff are being asked to isolate despite using PPE when approaching customers, Steve Alton, CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) lamented (image: William Rodrigues dos Santos)

Related tags Staff Health and safety coronavirus Legislation London Preston

Pubs across the country have been forced to close after staff have been asked to self-isolate.

Many pub workers have been alerted by the NHS Test and Trace app as coming into contact with an infectious person and had to self isolate for up to 10 days.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said this was an increasing issue for members, resulting in some sites being forced to cut opening hours or close totally.

Staff members are also being contacted by NHS contact-tracers after colleagues have tested positive while many hospitality workers are too young to have received two vaccine doses yet.

UKHospitality has called on the Government to change rules to introduce a ‘test and release’ system similar to that for international travel.

Workers would have to do a Covid test on day two and day five and could return to work providing both were negative.

Left in limbo

Mike Reeves, operator of the Yew Tree in Walton le Dale, Preston, has closed his site this week after most of his team were alerted by NHS Test and Trace to isolate.

The closure has resulted in the pub being £15,000 to £20,000 down on takings, Reeves said.

He told The Morning Advertiser (MA)​: “We’ve had to shut in a week with decent weather and two England games. We’re just left in limbo because everyone has different dates [for when isolation ends].

“We wouldn't have necessarily had to shut if we had more staff."

He has tried to avoid wasting food by sending stock to his other site in Liverpool but his cask ales will go out of date before reopening.

The operator wants to see the isolation period shortened. “You just get a ping on your phone and you have no way of knowing what the contact was. I think it makes people not trust in the system.”

Limiting recovery

“There's going to come a point when it can't keep going on,” he added. 

Graham Harris, chief financial officer at the East London Pub Co, said the issue was "really limiting our ability to recover from whats been a very challenging 18 months".

Self-isolating staff has put the pub business under "massive pressure," with bosses moving staff around venues and looking at slashing opening hours.

"It does seem to be that people are being told to isolate despite regular negative tests," Harris said. "People have been taken out of the business for no real reason, to sit at home not having Covid."

Chris Jowsey, chief executive of Admiral Taverns, said the sector had been "unfairly targeted" throughout the pandemic "without data linking cases to hospitality".

He added: "Lifting all restrictions is critical for the future of our industry rather than implementing more schemes which slow businesses down. Whilst the test to release scheme will be effective in that it allows for staff to continue to come back to work more quickly, to keep the industry going we need all restrictions to be lifted as soon as possible."

App sensitivity 

Steve Alton, CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) described self-isolating staff as a "huge problem for teams in our industry."

He explained: "Despite wearing masks all day and spending limited time with customers to mitigate risks, the sensitivity of the NHS Test and Trace app means that whole teams have had to isolate for 10 days, forcing many pubs to close their doors once more.

“Test to release would enable our members to ensure safety for everyone, but would also get their teams back into work much sooner, so that they can make the most of the summer months.

"They are already four weeks behind, due to the delay in lifting restrictions and they urgently need all the help they can get to enable them to begin the recovery of their businesses.”

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