18 Jul Business leaders strengthen calls for overhaul of self-isolation rules amid ‘pingdemic’ | Politics News
Business leaders have strengthened their calls for an immediate overhaul of self-isolation rules for double-jabbed people ahead of tomorrow’s final lifting of restrictions across England.
The Confederation of British Industry has demanded those who have received two doses of a COVID vaccine should not have to self-isolate for 10 days if they are a contact of an infected person.
And they want those who have not been double-jabbed to be able to take daily lateral flow tests instead of self-isolating.
Many industries are warning of disruption if a continuing rise in COVID cases in England leads to a significant worsening of what has been dubbed the “pingdemic” of people having to self-isolate.
Supermarkets have warned of problems with food supplies and possible shorter opening hours if increasing numbers of workers have to quarantine, while transport networks are already experiencing problems due to a lack of staff.
Latest figures up to 7 July show that 530,126 people in a week were alerted by the NHS COVID app to isolate after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive.
The issue of self-isolation for double-jabbed people has been thrust into the spotlight after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak performed a dramatic U-turn after initially saying they would dodge quarantine after Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive.
The pair quickly ditched plans to make use of a daily testing pilot scheme following an outcry.
And, ahead of England moving to the final step of his roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions on Monday, Mr Johnson urged people to continue to follow the current self-isolation rules.
“We’re going tomorrow into step four, we’re doing a big opening up,” he said.
“And that’s quite right – if we don’t do it now then we’ll be opening up in the autumn, the winter months, when the virus has the advantage of the cold weather.”
The prime minister said now was the “right moment” to lift almost all COVID rules, asking: “If we don’t do it now, we’ve got to ask ourselves when will we ever do it?”
But he urged people to “do it cautiously”, adding: “We’ve got to remember that this virus is still out there, cases are rising, we can see the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant.
“But we have this immense consolation and satisfaction that there is no doubt at all the vaccine programme… has very severely weakened the link between infection and hospitalisation and between infection and serious illness and death.
“That is the vital thing. So please, please, please be cautious, go forward to the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people and the risks that the disease continues to present.”
CBI president Lord Karan Bilimoria called on Mr Johnson to make immediate changes to self-isolation rules as England moves to step four of lockdown lifting.
From Monday, limits on social contact will be lifted.
When meeting up:
▶️ consider limiting close contact with people you do not live with
▶️ open windows to let fresh air in and help stop the spread of #COVID19.
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) July 18, 2021
He said: “With restrictions being lifted and cases rapidly increasing, we urgently need a surefooted approach from government, creating confidence to secure the recovery.
“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 flow tests.
“Against the backdrop of crippling staff shortages, speed is of the essence.
“Building and maintaining confidence is key to securing the economic recovery. Business and government will continue working together, helping people and businesses live safely and successfully with the virus.
“Mask wearing in enclosed spaces, especially transport, will help create confidence for both staff and customers, as will clarity around the future availability of free testing for employees.”
The government plans to allow double-vaccinated people to escape isolation after contact with a positive case, but not until 16 August.
Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick on Sunday defended the decision to wait a number of weeks between the lifting of almost all remaining COVID restrictions and a change to self-isolation rules.
“The reason why we have chosen to wait until mid-August is to ensure that we get even more people double vaccinated,” he told Sky News.
“Because we know with the Delta variant that one vaccine is good protection but two vaccines is very significantly better in preventing both transmission and serious illness and death.
“So by waiting that extra six weeks, we should get to the point where a very significant number of additional people – particularly the younger people in their late teens and 20s who came later to the vaccine programme – have been double vaccinated.”
Steve Rowe, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, this weekend said the number of staff isolating meant the chain might have to reduce opening hours.
He warned it was a “major issue across every industry at the moment”, adding: “Our COVID cases are roughly doubling every week and the pinging level is about three to one of COVID cases, so we’re seeing that growing exponentially.”
And Tim Morris, the chief executive of UK Major Ports Group, said a number of big port operators had 10% of their staff off work.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the lifting of “all restrictions” from Monday as a “mistake” and the “wrong thing to do”.
“I’ve said consistently that lifting all restrictions in one go tomorrow is a mistake, it’s reckless,” he said.
“We can already see that the infection rates are going through the roof, we know what’s going to happen with hundreds of thousands of people being asked to self isolate.
“The prime minister is essentially putting the whole nation into a car, pressing the accelerator and taking the seatbelt off.”
He accused Mr Johnson of causing “utter chaos” with his “reckless decisions”.
Scotland also eases some restrictions on Monday as it moves to Level 0, but with certain conditions.