Sector underwhelmed by changes to self-isolation

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Self-isolation: staff have been required to stay at home after being alerted by the NHS Covid app that they have come into contact with an infectious person (image: MmeEmil / Getty)
Self-isolation: staff have been required to stay at home after being alerted by the NHS Covid app that they have come into contact with an infectious person (image: MmeEmil / Getty)

Related tags Health and safety Legislation Nhs Punch

Pub bosses have called on the Government to urgently review self-isolation rules for those notified they have been in contact with someone that has tested positive for Covid.

Ministers have said the system will be changed for fully vaccinated people who are identified as close contacts of individuals who test positive for the virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans for life beyond lockdown laws last night (5 July)​ and said the virus will be managed with a test, trace and isolate system “proportionate to the pandemic.”

Health secretary Sajid Javid said: "The odds have shifted in our favour and we can look afresh at many of the measures we have had to put in place".


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From 16 August anyone who is a close contact of a positive case will no longer have to self-isolate if they have had two jabs, he told MPs today (6 July).

Fully vaccinated people identified as contacts will be advised to take a PCR test and must isolate if it returns a positive result.

Those who receive a second dose around 16 August must wait two weeks before being eligible for the change in order for immunity to develop.

However, many hospitality workers are under 30 and so will not have received two doses of a vaccine by this time.

Many pubs have been forced to slash opening hours or close after staff were alerted by the NHS Covid app as having come into contact with an infectious person.

Staff members have been instructed to self-isolate for up to 10 days or run the risk of being hit with a fine of up to £10,000 for repeat offences.

Test and release

Trade bodies have called for a ‘test and release’ system, similar to the one used for international travel, to allow workers to return back to venues sooner.

Punch Pubs chief executive Clive Chesser welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement but expressed reservations over the future of isolation protocols.

He said: “We are concerned by the lack of clarity on how the Test and Trace system will be adapted to provide a more pragmatic and risk-based system, moving to a ‘test to remain’ framework to reduce disproportionate interruptions to people’s working lives and to support business continuity. 

He added: “This is an urgent requirement, given the current level of disruption, and we remain keen to work with the Government on helping to find a more practical solution.”

In an opinion piece for The Morning Advertiser (MA)​, Tim Tomlinson, operator of the White Cross, Merchants 1688, the Stonewall Tap, Lancaster, Lancashire, described the alerts as “like an unseen shark swimming in the waters”.

Tomlinson described the impact of self-isolating staff on his business and said sales at one of his sites were down 78% compared to the previous five weeks.

Wiped out

He said: “Just as I was starting to make a few quid for the first time in 15 months it has been completely wiped out and more. And aside from the short-term losses the longer-term impact on trade is also huge with regular customer now booking elsewhere.”

The alerts came as a bitter pill to swallow as his staff had been testing negative on rapid coronavirus tests each day and some even had negative PCR test results.

The operator added: “If we have to continue to follow the current isolating rules as they are being applied, even if staff are fit well and testing negative, the sudden and dramatic closures will create much more significant damage to our businesses and sector.”      

What’s more, almost half of pub goers have seen local venues alter their trading hours or service patterns due to a lack of staff since the on-trade reopened under the Government’s roadmap.

Research from Streetbees found that 44% of respondents said they were aware of local venues having to alter trading hours or service due to a lack of staff since pubs, bars, restaurants were allowed to reopen.

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