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Industry welcomes NHS Covid-19 app changes to ease ‘pingdemic’

Published:  03 August, 2021

Trade associations have welcomed news that the Government is to update the NHS Covid-19 app to reduce the numbers of people being forced to self-isolate.

The so-called ‘pingdemic’ has been bringing major challenges to the hospitality sector causing staff shortages and even forcing some premises to close.

A UKHospitality survey of 17,000 businesses has suggested that six in 10 hospitality businesses have had staff off work after being ‘pinged’ and that 267,000 people or 13% of the industry’s workforce have recently been, or are currently, self-isolating.

The Government announced yesterday that the NHS Covid-19 app would be updated to ‘ping’ contacts that are made two days prior to a positive test for someone who is asymptomatic and not the current five days.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said: “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. This update to the app will help ensure that we are striking the right balance.”

Trade associations welcomed the news.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality said this would alleviate the pressure being experienced by businesses but admitted it was not a ‘silver bullet.’

“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,” she said.

“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. ”

Meanwhile, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) also welcomed the news while revealing that as many as 1,000 pubs have been forced to temporarily close due to large numbers of their staff being pinged on the app and having to isolate.

Further analysis conducted by the trade association found that on average per week, being forced to close due to the pingdemic costs a pub £9,500 in trade.

“We welcome any changes to the NHS app which reduce the severity of the pingdemic and prevent unnecessary isolation,” said Emma McClarkin, chief Executive of the BBPA.

“On top of changes to the NHS app, more investment is needed for our sector if it is to recover and play a leading role in building back better. The Government must do this by reforming VAT, Beer Duty and Business Rates by which pubs and other hospitality businesses are greatly overtaxed.”