Just as England eases restrictions, and many celebrated ‘Freedom Day‘ only three days ago, the country is facing it’s third wave of coronavirus infections. A record number of people who have come into contact with an infected individual are being forced to self-isolate, whereby most have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS contact-tracing app. Having produced significant disruptions for many SMEs and critical services already, the “Pingdemic” threatens to undermine the efforts of the country and it’s 6 million SMEs it inhabits who have tried to keep afloat over the past 16 month.
In fact, British business is being significantly disrupted, with some of the worst hit sectors and jobs include, retail workers, cleaners and caterers. As of Thursday morning, a record 618,903 alerts were sent to Covid apps users in England and Wales and that number is set to soar as restrictions lifted on Monday.
Many of the UK’s largest companies have been suffering from the staff shortages caused by the notifications including a large UK pub chain, Greene King, who said last week that 33 outlets had to close. Retailers are reporting absences of as high as 20% in some areas.
Although it is not a legal requirement for Britons to self-isolate after being ‘pinged’, it is of the business’ CSR to close so their customers and staff don’t catch the virus, which in turn could have a greater impact on the overall runnings of the business. In contrast, those who are telephoned directly by the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing system after being in contact with a positive case, would be expected to isolate. Unfortunately, the majority of SME business owners have no choice but to stay open despite not having enough staff, with their only other choice is to close.
SMEs in the UK are pushing for changes to the app to consider the status of people’s vaccination, in which people would be able to return to work after testing negative through lateral flow covid tests.
Stokes Tea & Coffee is a market leading coffee roaster, café operator and wholesale supplier. In the 119 years it has been running, this family business has seen its fair share of challenges. Nick Peel is the current MD and the 4th generation to take the helm at Stokes Tea & Coffee. Nick said: “The ‘Pingdemic’ is causing major headaches for many businesses including ours. The affects from staff being pinged and then having to self-isolate is hampering what should have been, a much needed return to full operations for many SMEs and we are not expecting that the situation will improve in the run up to August 16th.
Shout out to SMEs 📢
It’s true to say that facing up to constant challenge is indeed ‘business as usual’ for most companies. For many, the pandemic and now the so-called ‘Pingdemic’ is causing more than just a few headaches, and sadly, this may last for some time yet. (1/5)
— Stokes Tea & Coffee (@StokesCoffee) July 20, 2021
“We’ve lost operational hours as a direct result of staff being absent from being pinged. It’s concerning to see how far-reaching the affects of the pingdemic are likely to be and the potential knock on impacts to supply chains.”
“We believe we can operate safely and are continuing to use precautionary measures such as masks, temperature monitoring and onsite lateral flow testing etc. to help protect our both customers and staff. We would like to see the current Track & Trace system revised, or appropriate support given by Government to prevent further closures of more SMEs/businesses and the subsequent economic consequences of this.”
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