The UK’s large employers group has called on the government to bring forward the end of the mandatory self-isolation regime in line with the next stage of easing of economic restrictions.
Bosses are concerned that they will not be able to open fully on July 19 — the date when most Covid-19 restrictions are due to end — because of staff shortages caused by workers forced to isolate.
The self-isolation regime is not expected to change until August 16, several weeks after the “stage 4” easing of other restrictions.
Retailers and restaurateurs have warned that operations are being heavily disrupted by the rise in people having to isolate as Covid-19 cases continue to increase among staff and customers.
The UK’s recovery slowed in May as growth stalled in retail, construction and manufacturing, offsetting a strong rebound in the hospitality and leisure sectors.
CBI director-general Tony Danker has called for the end of isolation rules to be brought into line with the end of other restrictions on economic activity, as well as the acceleration of efforts to develop a so-called test and release scheme using a combination of lateral flow and PCR to identify positive cases but allow staff testing negative to avoid self isolation.
The CBI wants guidance from the government early next week to give greater confidence to businesses when they reopen. It also wants continued government funding of workplace testing beyond the end of July.
Danker urged the government to keep under review guidance over the ending of mask wearing on transport. Many managers say that staff are more worried about travelling to and from work — especially during rush hour — than the risk of catching Covid-19 while at work.
“Learning to live and work with the virus is the right strategy. But we need to ensure this is a confident not an anxious transition, otherwise it won’t work,” he said.
The government has left it to transport operators to decide whether to enforce mask wearing, but the guidance will be that masks and other Covid-19 safety measures such as social distancing will no longer be necessary from July 19.
The CBI also recommended that the government provide guidance about how businesses should assess the risk of working environments and what measures are proportionate to that risk. These include ventilation, cleaning, perspex screens and face coverings.