NHS app updated to reduce number of people told to self-isolate as hospitality warns of closures

02 August 2021 by
NHS app updated to reduce number of people told to self-isolate as hospitality warns of closures

The NHS Covid-19 app is being tweaked following concerns too many people were being told to self-isolate.

From today (2 August) if a person tests positive but has no symptoms the app will only ‘ping' their close contacts from two days prior, rather than five.

The Department for Health and Social Care said it would mean fewer people who were contacts of a person when they were "unlikely to be at the peak of their infectiousness" would be advised to self-isolate.

It follows concerns from hospitality businesses that Test and Trace rules were worsening existing staff shortages and forcing some venues to close.

"We want to reduce the disruption that self-isolation can cause for people and businesses, while ensuring we're protecting those most at risk from this virus," said health secretary Sajid Javid.

"This update to the app will help ensure that we are striking the right balance."

The changes come after it was revealed more than a quarter of a million hospitality workers have recently been, or are currently, self-isolating after being ‘pinged' by the NHS Covid app.

A study by UKHospitality found 267,000 people, around 13% of the industry's workforce, have been impacted by Track and Trace rules.

The trade body surveyed operators who run around 17,000 venues, employing a total of 308,000 people between them.

It found that six in ten businesses have had staff stop work after being ‘pinged', with four in 10 forced to fully or partially close sites.

Nearly half (47%) said they have reduced trading hours while 39% have had to limit menus and 8% are offering a takeaway-only service. Six in 10 operators said they are relying on their remaining staff to work longer hours to keep the business going.

UKHospitality has called for the creation of a ‘test to release' scheme, to allow businesses to keep trading.

From 16 August under-18s and people who are fully vaccinated will no longer have to self-isolate if they have close contact with a positive coronavirus case, but the hospitality industry has warned the changes are "too little, too late" to help the sector.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality said: "With our research showing more than 250,000 hospitality workers being affected by ‘pings' at any given point by the NHS Covid App, this intervention from government is absolutely necessary to prevent a complete loss of summer trading for the hospitality sector following prolonged periods of severely disrupted trading.

"This will help to alleviate some of the pressure currently being experienced by hard-hit businesses, but is not a silver bullet. The fact that fully vaccinated staff will still currently have to self-isolate is a significant barrier to venues operating viably and moving towards recovery. We urge government to update guidance and bring forward a workable test to release scheme at the soonest possible opportunity."

Last week it was reported that hospitality has suffered a £100.2b drop in sales in the 15 months since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Image: Sigiuz / Shutterstock

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