Brewery owner brands 'pingdemic' an 'existential threat' to businesses

3 August 2021, 07:23

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Speaking to LBC's Tom Swarbrick, Brewery and pub chain owner William Lees-Jones hit out at the NHS Covid app.

He said the 'pingdemic' had been "awful" for his business, branding the NHS Covid app an "existential threat."

He went on to explain that the threat of losing staff due to requirements to self-isolate could cause some businesses to close for good.

Even though a planned changed to the rules would mean double jabbed people 'pinged' by the app do not have to self-isolate, Mr Lees-Jones pointed out 30% of people working in hospitality are young.

This means it is unlikely they will have been double jabbed by the time the new rules come into play.

The conversation comes as the NHS Covid-19 app is set to be updated so fewer contacts will be instructed to isolate after an increase in people being pinged since lockdown restrictions ended.

Almost 700,000 alerts were sent by the app to users in England and Wales for the week to July 21, a record since it was launched, which has caused staffing issues across multiple industries.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said the "logic" behind the app was being tweaked, although the sensitivity and risk threshold would remain unchanged.

Instead of checking contacts for five days before a positive test, the app will only go back two days.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) welcomed the change, saying its research found up to 1,000 pubs have been forced to close temporarily due to large numbers of staff being pinged.

Emma McClarkin, the association's chief executive, said: "On average, each pub forced to temporarily close due to staff being pinged costs £9,500 in lost trade per week and our larger venues much, much more at a critical time in their recovery.

"On top of changes to the NHS app, more investment is needed for our sector if it is to recover and play a leading role in building back better.

"The Government must do this by reforming VAT, beer duty and business rates by which pubs and other hospitality businesses are greatly overtaxed."

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