Business leaders today join the Mail’s rallying cry to Boris Johnson to save the UK from the paralysing effects of the pingdemic.
Companies and organisations representing thousands of businesses employing millions are demanding an end to the quarantine of the healthy.
They speak for hospitality, retail, food supplies, manufacturing and transport – the foundations of the economy.
The business leaders are getting behind the Mail’s letter to the Prime Minister, asking him urgently to bring forward plans to alter the rules on August 16, so those who are double-jabbed are exempt from quarantining as long as they take regular tests.
Ministers last night announced a move to keep the nation fed by setting up testing sites at 500 factories, warehouses and distribution centres so critical workers no longer need to isolate if they are pinged by the NHS Covid app.
But business leaders say the proposal won’t deal fully with the growing crisis, as Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng yesterday signalled the August 16 date could even be delayed.
Business leaders today join the Mail’s rallying cry to Boris Johnson to save the UK from the paralysing effects of the pingdemic
Ministers last night announced a move to keep the nation fed by setting up testing sites at 500 factories, warehouses and distribution centres so critical workers no longer need to isolate if they are pinged by the NHS Covid app
More than 1.3million self-isolation alerts were sent last week. BLUE BARS show the number of ‘pings’ sent by the NHS app each week; RED BARS show the number of people contacted by Test and Trace call handlers; and YELLOW BARS show the number of people who tested positive for Covid
New estimates suggest 2.1 million people could be forced into up to ten days of self-isolation by next week after being pinged by the app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
The vast majority have already been double-jabbed against the virus and will test negative for any infection.
This exodus of workers means there are gaps on supermarket shelves, particularly fresh produce, as an existing shortage of delivery drivers has been exacerbated by the impact of the app.
Food processors, car plants and other manufacturers are cutting production and shifts, threatening to paralyse the economy. Postal services are failing in many areas, while household bins are going uncollected, leaving rubbish to bake, creating a stink across our streets.
Police forces are taking longer to respond to 999 calls, while train services are suffering as staff are required to quarantine. There are also some concerns for petrol supplies.
Business leaders say it is bizarre to require healthy people who have been double-jabbed and tested negative to quarantine if identified as a Covid contact by the app or Test and Trace.
In other developments:
- Ministers last night announced that employers in 16 sectors could apply for an exemption if a critical worker was pinged by the app;
- The UK recorded 84 deaths and 39,906 cases of Covid-19, meaning cases are falling for the first time in two months;
- More than a million alerts telling people to self-isolate were issued last week, including a record 618,903 ‘pings’ sent out via the Covid app;
- Infections among those in their 20s soared to a record high, prompting calls for ministers to do more to get young adults jabbed;
- Pregnant women were urged to get vaccinated as data showed just one in ten has come forward so far;
- Tory MPs threatened to boycott the Conservative Party conference if they have to use vaccine passports to attend.
Signatories to the Mail’s letter include UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, who said: ‘Hospitality is facing significant staffing challenges just as restrictions ease after 16 months, with as many as a fifth of staff in the sector isolating at any one time.
‘We urge the Government to move faster on this issue to reduce business disruption and prevent the summer being cancelled for our sector.’
There are increasing fears the app is losing public support, with one estimate suggesting usage is declining by 15 per cent a week.
Julian Metcalfe, founder of Itsu and Pret a Manger, said: ‘It’s almost impossible for anyone in business to navigate this chaos and confusion.
Data shows 600,000 alerts were sent by the NHS app in the week ending July 14, a 17 per cent rise increase on the previous seven days and another record high. The red line show the cumulative number of tracing alerts sent throughout the pandemic, while the blue bars represent the number each week
Infections were rising in England by about 67 per cent on June 30, for example, and at the same time the number of alerts sent to phones rose by 63 per cent. Even earlier this month ‘pings’ were rising in line with cases – infections rose by 48 per cent on July 7 while alerts jumped by 46 per cent. But by July 14, cases across England were rising at twice the rate of alerts – with a 34 per cent increase in infections compared to the 17 per cent rise in pings that reached phones
In total, when children sent home to isolate from school are included, there were up to 2.3million people told to quarantine last week – or 3 per cent of the entire population
‘I think the Mail’s campaign is a great idea: if you’re double-jabbed, let people use their common sense and make their own decisions.’
Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin said: ‘The vaccination programme has been a fantastic success. We now need pragmatic solutions, not indiscriminate pings from a failed IT system, which are rapidly driving the country into the rocks.’
Clive Watson, of the City Pub Group, said: ‘It’s one thing pubs not being able to open, but this is also affecting the haulage industry and supermarkets. If shops start running out of food, we’re all in the proverbial.’
Signatories from the transport sector include Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, and John Holland-Kaye, the boss of Heathrow.
Rod McKenzie, of the Road Haulage Association, said: ‘The RHA strongly supports the lifting of the requirement for fully vaccinated lorry drivers to self-isolate if pinged.
‘The UK is facing a critical shortage of lorry drivers and the fact that many fit and healthy drivers are required to isolate is unfair and illogical.’
Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, said: ‘The pingdemic has caused issues for lifeline ferry services, offshore energy workers and others providing vital services.
‘Seafarers are key workers and it is paramount those that are double-vaccinated can continue doing their essential work without disruption.’
Dr Roger Barker, of the Institute of Directors, said: ‘The Government’s handling of the issue of self-isolation is in a complete mess.
‘The month-long disconnect between the lifting of restrictions and the ending of self-isolation is exacerbating existing staff shortages.’
FIRMS’ RALLYING CRY
‘Dear Prime Minister,
We believe the country’s current approach to self-isolation is closing down the economy rather than opening it up, and causing huge damage. Because of the “pingdemic”, businesses are at risk of grinding to a halt.
We believe people who have been double-vaccinated should be able to avoid having to self-isolate so they can carry on working. They would instead have regular tests.
The Government is already proposing this from August 16. We are simply asking them to bring forward the start date, with immediate effect.’
Signatories to the Mail’s campaign:
- Association of Convenience Stores
- British Beer & Pub Association
- Federation of Wholesale Distributors
- Tim Alderslade, CEO, Airlines UK
- Steven Alton, chief executive, British Institute of Innkeeping
- Richard Ballantyne, chief executive, British Ports Association
- Roger Barker, policy director, Institute of Directors
- Shane Brennan, chief executive, Cold Chain Federation
- Charlie Cornish, chief executive, Manchester Airports Group
- Karen Dee, chief executive, Airport Operators Association
- Bernard Donoghue, director, Association of Leading Visitor Attractions
- Andrew Flintham, managing director, Tui UK
- Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive, D & D London
- Jonathan Hinkles, chief executive, Loganair
- John Holland-Kaye, chief executive, Heathrow Airport
- Johan Lundgren, CEO, easyJet
- Nick Mackenzie, chief executive, Greene King
- Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy, Road Haulage Association
- Tim Martin, founder and chairman, Wetherspoon
- Julian Metcalfe, CEO of Itsu and founder of Pret a Manger
- Charlie Mullins, founder and chief executive, Pimlico Plumbers
- Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKHospitality
- Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive, UK Chamber of Shipping
- Sir Malcolm Walker, founder, Iceland
- Richard Walker, managing director, Iceland
- Clive Watson, executive chairman, City Pub Group
- David Wells, chief executive, Logistics UK