Businesses across the country are suffering from staff shortages this week after hundreds of thousands of people were pinged by the NHS Test and Trace app, with concerns growing over the viability of easing restrictions in the UK on Monday.
At least half a dozen industry organizations from across the healthcare, transport, retail and manufacturing sectors have warned of a potentially catastrophic situation where staff shortages caused by the warnings from the NHS Test and Trace app are causing widespread business disruption.
The latest group to ring the alarm was the Royal College of Anesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care, who warned that the risk to patients with delayed critical surgery was greater than their chances of catching COVID-19 from fully vaccinated surgeons.
“The risk of patients receiving COVID from vaccinated healthcare professionals is minimal compared to the harm that patients may suffer if their treatment is delayed,” a statement said.
The medical workers joined a chorus of concern from people like the CBI, representing over 190,000 UK companies, the UK Hospitality representing pubs and restaurants, and the transport associations warning of “serious consequences” if the UK reopened next week.
More than half a million people in England was pinged by the Test and Trace app in one week, the highest number was recorded.
A total of 520,194 alarms were sent to NHS users COVID-19 app in the week of July 7 and told them they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus and for self-isolation.
On Friday morning, the group representing meat processing companies warned that the companies would be forced to close production completely if the situation continued to deteriorate.
“We hear reports from some members that between 5% and 10% of their workforce have been ‘pinged’ by the app and asked to isolate themselves,” said Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association.
“This is on top of the desperate shortage of workers that the industry is already suffering from,” he added. “If the UK labor force situation worsens further, companies will be forced to start closing production lines together.”
Sir. Allen said he had been urging the government for several months to add butchers to the list of lack of employment, which would allow the government to offer temporary work visas to foreign nationals who have skills currently needed in the UK.
This will allow the industry to temporarily fill these growing vacancies until the “current crisis is gone”, Mr Allen said.
Fully vaccinated people in England will be exempt from isolation when warned by the Test and Trace app from mid-August, but senior industry figures warn that if more workers are asked to stay home after the end of restrictions in England on Monday, it will wreak havoc on British companies.
Mick Lynch, head of the rail, maritime and transport union, said he expected to “see an increase in workers pinged with a self-isolation instruction next week”.
“Even at this late stage, the government, train operators and bus companies should issue a clear, legally supported instruction that levels the rest of the UK to the safety standards that remain in force in Wales and Scotland,” he said. added.
Meanwhile, pubs and restaurants – which are already facing staff shortages – said they might be forced to close if their workers continue to be pinged.
Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality, said the industry faced “significant staffing challenges”, with up to as many as a fifth of staff isolated at a time.
Car manufacturers have also spoken publicly about their concerns.
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Rolls-Royce said it was “approaching a critical point” due to workers who will have to isolate themselves and may have to halve production if the trend continues.
The company, which is owned by German BMW, said it was “extremely concerned” about the number of employees at the production site in Goodwood, West Sussex, who were ordered to stay home due to warnings from the app.
Meanwhile, Nissan’s plant in England has been affected by the same problem with more than 700 workers on site in Sunderland being said to be self-insulating.