United Kingdom

Pingdemic alert! UK business leaders warn of huge hit to high street

Ipsos Mori found that 19 percent of respondents were unlikely to follow the instruction to isolate if “pinged” by the NHS app because they had been in contact with someone who has developed Covid-19 symptoms. The share of the population who say they were likely to isolate has fallen from eight in 10 in May to 72 percent. Last week Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the requirement for fully-vaccinated people in England to self-isolate should end on August 7 – the same date as the requirement will be dropped in Wales – and not on August 16 as planned.

A record-breaking 689,313 alerts were sent out to people in England and Wales with the NHS Covid-19 app in the week to July 21.

Alpesh Paleja, the CBI’s lead economist, warned of the damage mass self-isolation is doing to the economy.  

He said: “The economic recovery remains at risk from a number of supply-side bottlenecks, most notably the pingdemic. Businesses in all sectors and parts of the country are reporting staff shortages due to self-isolation, significantly impacting their day-to-day operations.

“While a growing exemptions list might help, the best solution is to fast forward the move that allows those people who are double-jabbed to avoid self-isolation, if they are not infectious.”

The CBI found activity in private firms grew at the fastest pace in six years in the last three months and despite the challenges is expected to remain strong.

Mr Paleja said: “The economy has been motoring ahead since restrictions began to lift a few months ago. In particular, it is a welcome relief to see consumer services getting a chance to steady the ship as one of the last industries to open up properly.”

However, there are strong concerns about a rise in unemployment as furlough support is wound down. Today (AUG 1), the Government contribution to payments falls to 60 percent of unworked hours, with businesses obliged to pay the remaining 20 percent.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has called for the Government to extend skills training with research showing nearly one in five companies are considering staff redundancies.

There is particular concern about older workers who need retraining and are more likely to be on furlough.

More than 250 companies were asked how they would respond to the furlough changes. Nearly a quarter of respondents (24 percent) said they would reduce hours or move staff part-time; 18 percent would make staff redundant; and 13 percent would cancel or reduce recruitment or investment plans.

The BCC’s Jane Gratton said: “Today’s changes to the furlough scheme will likely result in many thousands of people being released back into the labour market, as employers who are still struggling to recover from the recession are forced to make redundancies and cuts to working hours. With widespread skills shortages across the economy, some will find new jobs where their skills are in demand, while others will need to retrain for opportunities in a different sector.  

“Whether furloughed workers are returning to the workplace or the wider labour market, it is crucial that employers and the government give them the support and training they need to be re-engaged and productive. Alongside rapid retraining opportunities, government should extend the Kickstart scheme into 2022, and expand it to enable older workers to gain new skills and experience.”


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