Pubs ‘cannot continue’ amid self-isolation shortages

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Concerned sector: 'These businesses that have been on their knees for 17 months are choosing to look after their staff with the fear that there could be a Covid outbreak because someone's phone has been pinged,' says Greater Manchester night czar Sacha Lord. (image: Getty/The Good Brigade)
Concerned sector: 'These businesses that have been on their knees for 17 months are choosing to look after their staff with the fear that there could be a Covid outbreak because someone's phone has been pinged,' says Greater Manchester night czar Sacha Lord. (image: Getty/The Good Brigade)

Related tags: Fullers, Oakman Group, Punch, Sacha Lord, Coronavirus, Nhs, Greene king

Bosses have urged the Government to stop "dithering” and introduce a ‘test to release’ scheme to allow self-isolating workers to return to work quicker.

The sector has experienced staff shortages because of workers being instructed to stay at home for up to 10 days after being alerted by the NHS app or Test and Trace contract-tracers.

The Government has been urged to introduce a ‘test to release’ scheme to allow workers identified as close contacts of Covid positive individuals to return to work if they test negative for the virus.

Founder and executive chairman of Oakman Inns, Peter Borg-Neal told The Morning Advertiser​ the group currently had three pubs closed with a further three operating limited hours or a reduced menu.

Staff shortages had cost the company more than a quarter of a million in sales, the pub group boss said, with just one person in the company testing positive for Covid.

Government dithering

“A test to release scheme is the obvious next move. The Government is dithering,” Borg-Neal said.

Night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, Sacha Lord, said he was being contacted around ten times a day by operators forced to shut because of isolating staff.

It was a testament to the compassion of the sector that hospitality staff were self-isolating when alerted to by the NHS Covid 19 app despite this not being a legal requirement, Lord added.

“It is showing that operators do care for their staff,” he added. “Safety for staff has to come first, they are on the frontline.”

"These businesses that have been on their knees for 17 months are choosing to look after their staff with the fear that there could be a Covid outbreak because someone's phone has been pinged."

Irresponsible to delete

But the app was “not fit for purpose” and too sensitive. “It’s not working and it's crippling businesses across the board,” Lord said.

Encouraging hospitality staff to delete the app would be “irresponsible,” the night czar said and urged the sector to get their Covid jabs. 

A change in rules from 16 August will see double vaccinated close-contacts able to avoid self-isolation as long as they test negative. 

Pub bosses have said this will not save the sector from a difficult summer as many young workers will have to wait until September to receive their second dose.

A spokesperson for Fuller’s said it needed the Government to urgently recognise “that we cannot continue with this situation".

“We need the lifting of self-isolation on those who have been double jabbed and deliver a negative test result as soon as possible,” they added.

"At the moment, we are generally managing to redeploy teams where necessary although we have had to restrict trading hours and food service times in some venues.”

Challenging recovery

What’s more, pub giant Greene King said it had been forced to shut 33 venues last week and the disruption was “making it even more challenging to rebuild trade as we reopen".

Punch Pubs CEO Clive Chesser also called for an urgent review of the current rules for those identified as close contacts.

He added: “We are now into one of the busiest trading periods of the year, and clarity is needed on how Test and Trace 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.

“We remain keen to work with the Government on helping to find a more practical solution.”

The supply chain has also felt the impact of self-isolating staff with many delivery drivers and food producers off work leading to shortages and delays across the sector.

Related topics: Health & safety, Other operators

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