Employers’ body the CBI has called on the government to bring forward changes to Covid self-isolation rules to 19 July rather than wait until 16 August.
Firms have reported that their plans to open up from 19 July are in disarray because of the number of employees having to self isolate as the number of new cases rises particularly among younger people.
Later today (12 July) the government will set out in more detail what its plans are for the ending of Covid lockdown restrictions on 19 July.
The hospitality industry has been particularly badly affected by this, prompting the CBI to argue that bringing forward the changes would ease staffing problems and would help ensure the next phase of lockdown is a “confident” not an “anxious” process.
The requirement to self-isolate for those who have been fully vaccinated, if they come into contact with someone who tests positive, is being lifted but not until 16 August. Studies, that have not yet been completely verified, show that a rising number of people are deleting the NHS Covid-19 app, so as to avoid being pinged and urged to self-isolate for 10 days. Employers cannot legally force people to work who should be self isolating.
Vaccinations and testing
In a six-point plan published on Sunday, the CBI said firms needed government help so they could have “all available tools” to increase their responsiveness. It added that clarity was needed over continued workplace testing.
On Sunday the CBI, which represents 190,000 businesses, called on the government to boost confidence in the isolation system by giving firms “all available tools” to increase their “agility and responsiveness”.
CBI boss Tony Danker said: “Learning to live and work with the virus is the right strategy, but we need to ensure this is a confident not an anxious transition, otherwise it won’t work.
“Businesses have had a real boost this week with the prime minister’s plans for the final stage of the reopening. What’s needed now is a concerted effort between business and government to create widespread confidence from the get go.”
The CBI also said the government needed to support employees and customers to feel confident in using public transport by keeping mask-wearing compliance under review. It should continue to fund workplace Covid testing beyond the end of July, it said.
More research into the impact of improved ventilation on the risk of aerosol transmission in the workplace, cleaning workspaces and hand-washing were among other proposals the CBI urged the government to adopt.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) said on Sunday the government was working to reopen the economy while ensuring staff and customers are protected from the virus.
A Beis spokesman said: “We will set out our plans for moving to Step 4 on Monday, after reviewing the latest data. The expected easing of restrictions in England from July 19 will help businesses to get back to normal, but employers will continue to have a responsibility to help stop the virus spreading.
“Working safely guidance will be updated shortly to provide further clarity for businesses, helping ensure they are able to open safely, reducing the risk of transmission and protecting staff and customers.”
Last week, UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls said that to avoid “carnage” being caused to companies in her industry by self isolation requirements, Covid testing should be used instead.
“What we are asking for is pragmatic adjustment to avoid disadvantaging young workers – test to release as per international travel will reduce disruption without reducing protection.”
Staffing at festivals, such as Latitude, that are going ahead this summer is also likely to be affected by self isolation.
Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said that even if the self isolation rules were removed for the double-vaccinated, it would still cause huge problems for festival staff.
“The problem is that, irrespective of test and trace check-in requirement at events, staff can still be pinged – and for the younger non-double-vaccinated cohorts working at festivals there is no option other than to go home and self-isolate even after 16 August.”
He said this could have a “significant impact on the operation of festivals this year” and that they have already had reports from contractors and site management staff who have been forced to cancel because they have been required to self-isolate.