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Restaurants Need a New Test and Trace Policy or They Can’t Reopen to Stay Open

U.K. Hospitality boss Kate Nicholls said that changes to self-isolation rules for fully vaccinated people don’t help hospitality businesses

The Duke Of Cambridge Marks The NHS’ 73rd Birthday with Boris Johsnon looking on behind a mask between two Doric columns
The government are being urged to reconsider the impact of its test, trace, and isolate policy on hospitality
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Following confirmation of what the removal of almost all coronavirus restrictions in England will look like if it happens as planned on 19 July, health secretary Sajid Javid has announced that the test, trace, and isolate policy would also be amended. Today, 6 July, he said that from 16 August, close contacts of people who test positive with COVID-19 will no longer have to self-isolate so long as they have had two vaccine doses.

This afternoon, the boss of lobby group U.K. Hospitality Kate Nicholls said the measures didn’t go far enough, quickly enough for restaurants that are being forced to shut down. This is because the current test-and-trace rules require a whole staff to isolate if just one team member is notified of their contact with a positive case.

“The sector is experiencing severe staff shortages, compounded massively by the absence of team members who have been told to isolate despite not having shared shifts with colleagues who tested positive,” she said, referring to businesses which have been hamstrung since reopening indoors in May because of a shortage of staff and subsequently the need to close when workers are notified of contact with Covid-positive cases, even if they have not worked on the same shifts.

She said the government’s latest plans were flawed with regards to hospitality, and would act to prevent restaurants from staying open just as they are legally allowed to do so at full capacity.

“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,” Nicholls said, pointing to the fact that 60 percent of those who work in hospitality are aged between 15-34, the vast majority of whom will not have had the opportunity to receive both vaccinations by the 16 August.

Nicholls added that “with cases predicted to continue to rise...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.”