UK industry association fears lack of help will continue for several months
The United Kingdom's leading business confederation has called on the government to change COVID-19 isolation requirements, after the national test and trace apparatus left some businesses and industries with worker shortages.
Under current guidance, anyone contacted by the test and trace system in the UK must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccine or testing status. Last week, more than 520,000 people were told to self-isolate, having come into contact with someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Some pub and supermarket chains have had to close locations due to employee absences. Steve Rowe, the chief executive of Marks& Spencer, told The Times he anticipates worker shortages across the retail sector could reach 20 percent during the next month, and his locations may need to respond by reducing hours. Several major ports operators have seen employee numbers reduced by 10 percent, leading to disruption in the UK's food supply.
The Confederation of British Industry, which represents 190,000 businesses in the UK, said the government must bring forward plans to amend isolation rules, which are due to change next month.
CBI President Karan Bilimoria said "against the backdrop of crippling staff shortages, speed is of the essence". He said the government should not wait until Aug 16 to allow double-jabbed individuals not to self-isolate for 10 days.
Bilimoria fears that work shortages will only get worse, now that the UK has lifted almost all lockdown and social distancing restrictions and COVID-19 cases are on the rise. Analysis from the BBC projects that upwards of 4.5 million people could be told to isolate between now and mid-August.
"With restrictions being lifted and cases rapidly increasing, we urgently need a surefooted approach from government, creating confidence to secure the recovery," Bilimoria said in a statement on Sunday.
"This starts by immediately ending the self-isolation period of 10 days for people who are double-jabbed and providing a route out of isolation for those not yet fully vaccinated, through daily lateral fl ow tests."
Bilimoria also endorsed the continued use of face coverings in enclosed spaces and on transport, in order to "help create confidence for both staff and customers". As of Monday, masks are no longer mandated in indoor public spaces or on trains and buses.
"Building and maintaining confidence is key to securing the economic recovery," Bilimoria said. "Business and government will continue working together, helping people and businesses live safely and successfully with the virus."