Published on : Thursday, August 5, 2021
UKHospitality has welcomed the latest update to the NHS Covid-19 app. The body had argued staff shortages have been negatively impacting the sector as it struggles back from the pandemic. While the public is still being urged by the government use the app, changes made this week will result in fewer contacts being advised to self-isolate following a close contact with a positive case.
As part of a review into the app announced by the health secretary, the ‘logic’ which underpins how close contacts are notified will be updated. Currently, for people who input a positive test but are asymptomatic, the app looks for close contacts five days prior to a positive test.
This will be updated based on public health advice to look back at contacts two days prior to a positive test. The change will mean fewer contacts that took place when the positive case was unlikely to be at the peak of their infectiousness are advised to self-isolate, reducing the overall number of notifications sent by the app.
The government said that the update will not impact the sensitivity of the app, or change the risk threshold, and will result in the same number of high-risk contacts being advised to self-isolate. A survey of hundreds of hospitality businesses by industry body UKHospitality revealed the extent of the chaos and damage done to the industry by the so-called ‘pingdemic’.
The results suggest that six in ten hospitality businesses have had staff off work after being ‘pinged’ and that 267,000 people or 13 per cent of the industry’s workforce have recently been, or are currently, self-isolating. Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive, UKHospitality said that research is showing more than 250,000 hospitality workers being affected by ‘pings’ at any given point by the NHS Covid-19 app and hence an 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.
Sajid Javid, Health and Social Care Secretary said in a statement that the NHS wants to reduce the disruption that self-isolation can cause for people and businesses, while ensuring it is protecting those most at risk from this virus. He said that the update to the app will help ensure that people are striking the right balance.
Nicholls added that the app will help to alleviate some of the pressure currently being experienced by hard-hit businesses, but is not a silver bullet. She said that 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. She also urged the government to update guidance and bring forward a workable test to release scheme at the soonest possible opportunity.
UKHospitality is also calling for immediate action from the government to help these hard-pressed businesses, and particularly in the light of the fact that new industry data reveals the sector has suffered more than a £100 billion drop in sales from pre-pandemic levels since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.