Pub bosses call for self-isolation rules to change sooner
- Credit: PA
Hospitality bosses are calling for self-isolation rules to be relaxed sooner after a string of pubs were forced to close because staff had been 'pinged'.
Pubs, hotels and restaurants across Suffolk and north Essex have been forced to shut their doors as current self-isolation rules wreak havoc for the industry.
From August 16 those who have been double-jabbed will no longer have to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 but until then many businesses fear they will be forced to endure more closures.
Nick Attfield, director of properties at Southwold-based brewery Adnams, said: "This is the most challenging time of the whole pandemic so far. People self-isolating is wreaking havoc for us and a lot of other businesses."
Mr Attfield said the Swan Hotel in Southwold currently has 32 staff members self-isolating, meanwhile three of the brewery's tenanted pubs were shut due to staff having to self-isolate.
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Currently anyone pinged to self-isolate must do so, regardless of how many Covid vaccines they have had but NHS statistics show more than two-thirds of adults in Suffolk and north east Essex have now had both meaning they would not have to isolate if the rules were changed now.
"It's frustrating," Mr Attfield said. "We absolutely understand that if you're ordered to self-isolate by NHS test and trace you have to get on and do it, but so far nobody has come back with a positive result.
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"A large number of our staff are now are now double vaccinated, despite the fact we have a lot of young staff."
Paul Milsom, boss of Milsoms Hotels, said: "I cannot see the difference between a double vaccinated person on July 20, and then a double vaccinated person on the August 20.
"To me, the four week delay does not make sense.
"At the moment any large scale outbreak, particularly within our kitchens, could mean our restaurants might have to close.
"The government has allowed people to test to go to the Grand Prix this Saturday, or test to go to Wembley last weekend — but you can't test to go back to work."
Both Mr Milsom and Mr Attfield said that the current self-isolation rules were compounding established staffing issues in the hospitality industry.
However Bruce Lyons, a professor of economics at UEA specialising in competition economics and state interventions into the economy, said the government’s options to attract more staff to hospitality are limited.
“I think one point is that wages must go up. I think it’s inevitable that we’ll have to pay more for coffees, pints and our meals out," he said.
“But I think the biggest government role would be to create the right conditions in terms of controlling Covid.
“If you think about traditional sorts of interventions where you give a wage subsidy or something, they’re just not on the cards."
The spike in Covid-enforced closures has also forced Suffolk's smallest pub to rethink its plans for Freedom Day on July 19.
Geoff Page, landlord of the Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds, said the pub would not be opening its doors to drinkers inside the bar, but punters would still be able to drink outside.
"It's stick or twist time," he said. "We can twist now and say 'everybody come in' and lose everything. Or we can stick and reduce by some margin the chances of any of my guys picking it up because they're only serving outside."