Urgent review of ‘massively disruptive’ Test & Trace isolation needed

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Amend required: there have been calls for the Government to change the self-isolation rules (image: Getty/galitskaya)
Amend required: there have been calls for the Government to change the self-isolation rules (image: Getty/galitskaya)

Related tags Health and safety Legislation ukhospitality Scotland Kate nicholls

The Government has been urged to amend the Test & Trace system, which is forcing businesses to close and resulting in mass isolations, one trade association has warned.

Currently, if a member of staff is alerted by the NHS Test & Trace app as having been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, they have to isolate for up to 10 days.

Trade body UKHospitality (UKH) called on the Government to change the rules and introduce a ‘test and release’ system, similar to the one used for international travel.

UKH chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “For some weeks, we have been telling the Government about the severe staff shortages at venues, compounded massively by the absence of staff members who have been told to isolate despite not having shared shifts with colleagues who tested positive.

“We need urgent clarification of isolation policy to reflect the enormous success of the vaccine roll out and we urged the Cabinet Office to amend the current isolation policy as soon as possible, and certainly ahead of the 19 July, to address the challenges of the current system.

“A sensible and pragmatic approach would be to extend the ‘test to remain’ system for vaccinated staff to hospitality.

“That would avoid businesses being forced to close, losing thousands of pounds of revenue at a time when cash reserves are low or non-existent following 16 months of closure and punitive trading restrictions.”

Help avoid mass isolations

She warned if the system remained as it is currently, there was a threat of mass isolations, potentially damaging trade and putting more firms at risk of failure.

“Hospitality is eager to trade its way back to prosperity so ideally the Government should act to ensure vast swathes of the population are not unnecessarily confined to their homes due to rules formulated before the successful vaccine roll out,” Nicholls added.

“A strong focus on testing when cases are identified, rather than isolating fit and healthy people, would help to avoid mass isolations.”

Meanwhile in Scotland, the nation’s Test & Protect system has forced many hospitality businesses to close due to delays and confusion, one trade body has said.

The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) spokesperson Stephen Montgomery said it was severely testing and not necessarily protecting.

Not a viable option

He added: “There are two camps currently within Scottish hospitality, premises that are closed or those that will have to close. No one will escape it and it’s primarily due to system delays.

“The lag in the Test & Protect teams coming back to businesses has forced operators to weigh up the cost of closure versus risk of infection.

“Responsible operators by nature of their trade, are opting to shut, but at a cost of £15,000 per average sized business with much-needed turnover being lost, this is not viable.

“Tragically, for smaller owners, it is pushing them even deeper into the red, and to the point of no return.

He highlighted how while the industry agreed with the principle of testing and tracing to stop transmission, it should be underpinned by a robust system that works.

Montgomery added: “This, coupled with the staffing crisis in hospitality, is just another push into business closure, especially now businesses are being asked to contribute 10% towards furloughed employees’ unworked wages.

“Enough is enough, we now need reassurance from the Scottish Government there will be some sort of financial compensation for businesses having to close because of the flawed Test & Protect system.”

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