Hospitality bosses have warned that a relaxing of self-isolation rules from 16 August will be "too little, too late" to save the industry from a major staffing crisis as restrictions ease.
From that date under-18s and people who are fully vaccinated will no longer have to stay at home for 10 days if they have close contact with a positive coronavirus case. Instead, they will be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible.
Anyone getting their second dose just before or after 16 August will need to wait two weeks to build up protection before they are subject to the new rules. People of all ages will still be required to isolate if they test positive.
However, the changes are not coming into force until almost a month after 19 July, when all social distancing rules are set to end in England.
Hospitality businesses are already experiencing severe staff shortages with many forced to close or reduce trading hours due to team members being told to stay at home by the NHS Test and Trace app, despite testing negative.
Health secretary Sajid Javid told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that cases could hit 100,000 a day this month, prompting concern that young hospitality staff will be left exposed and businesses will struggle to trade if teams continually have to self-isolate before 16 August.
Kate Allen, owner at luxury holiday lettings company Salcombe Finest, said the changes were "too little, too late" for the industry.
"By mid-August, you're at the tail end of the holiday season and not scrapping the rules sooner is causing a logistical nightmare for businesses like mine," she said.
"Housekeeping teams cannot continue to service holiday homes if they simply don't have the numbers to do so because of self-isolation rules."
Alex Reilley, founder and chairman of restaurant and bar group Loungers, tweeted that keeping a 10-day isolation period for people who were not double jabbed was going to "shut hospitality down".
He said: "Two-thirds of our near 5,000 employees are under the age of 25 so will need to wait weeks to be double-jabbed. This is going to be utter chaos."
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has called for the introduction of a ‘test to remain' or ‘test to release' scheme as soon as possible to allow people to continue working if they test negative, regardless of vaccination status.
She said: "Introducing a test to release system for fully vaccinated people from the middle of next month not only fails to recognise the carnage the current system is causing hospitality and the wider economy, but also significantly discriminates against a huge proportion of our workforce.
"Around 60% of our staff are aged between 15 and 34 and the vast majority will not have had the opportunity to receive both jabs by 16 August.
"With cases predicted to continue to rise, this means that hospitality's recovery after 16 months of lockdown and severely disrupted trading will be harmed. Operators will be forced into reducing their operating hours or closing venues completely. We urge the government to move quicker on this issue to prevent the summer being cancelled and vast swathes of the population unnecessarily confined to their homes."
The government is also looking at relaxing rules for international travel to remove the need for fully vaccinated people to isolate when they arrive from an amber list country. The transport secretary is expected to update the house on the issue later this week.
Image: Michele Ursi/Shutterstock.com