Earlier today (6 July), Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that fully vaccinated people in England will not have to self isolate for 10 days if a close contact tests positive for Covid from 16 August, and they will instead be advised to take a PCR test.
Those who have only received one vaccination or not been vaccinated at all will still have to quarantine when ordered to through the NHS Test and Trace app, and individuals must allow two weeks to pass after having their second jab before they are allowed to be exempt from self isolating.
People will also still be obliged to self isolate if they test positive for Covid.
Under the current rules, even if someone tests negative for the virus after being told to self isolate, they must still quarantine for 10 days with no way of being able to reduce the isolation period; rules that have led to warnings that hospitality could face a lockdown 'in all but name' as more and more businesses are forced to close because of staff being 'pinged' by the NHS app.
It had been hoped that, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out plans yesterday (5 July) to remove almost all remaining Covid-19 restrictions on 19 July, changes to the rules around self isolation would be made sooner.
The decision to wait until mid-August is another blow for beleaguered hospitality businesses, many of which primarily employ a younger workforce that's unlikely to have been double jabbed until even later in the summer and will thus remain at the mercy of isolation rules for longer.
“Today’s announcement doesn’t go far enough, quickly enough," says Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive.
"The sector is experiencing severe staff shortages, compounded massively by the absence of team members who have been told to isolate despite not having shared shifts with colleagues who tested positive."
UKHospitality has already called on the Government to extend the ‘test to remain’ system for vaccinated staff to hospitality, and has also lobbied to allow hospitality businesses to operate a 'test to release' scheme, whereby staff who were self isolating could return to work if they had a negative test result.
“Introducing a test to release system for fully vaccinated people from the middle of next month not only fails to recognise the carnage the current system is causing hospitality and the wider economy, but also significantly discriminates against a huge proportion of our workforce," continues Nicholls.
"Around 60% of our staff are aged between 15-34 and the vast majority will not have had the opportunity to receive both jabs by the 16 August.
“With cases predicted to continue to rise, this means that hospitality’s recovery after 16 months of lockdown and severely disrupted trading will be harmed.
"Operators will be forced into reducing their operating hours or closing venues completely.
"We urge the Government to move quicker on this issue to prevent the summer being cancelled and vast swathes of the population unnecessarily confined to their homes.”