UKHospitality has been pressing the government to introduce a ‘test to release’ scheme for hospitality workers so that they can avoid having to self-isolate for 10 days every time they are notified of exposure to coronavirus by the NHS Test and Trace app, chief executive Kate Nicholls has said.

Responding to a question on the subject from fellow panellist Nick Collins, CEO, Loungers, on MCA’s The Conversation, Nicholls said that the number of hospitality staff being ‘pinged’ by app, meaning they are unable to work, has been one of the biggest issues for operators coming out of lockdown.

Collins said it was happening to “an awful lot of our team” across the UK, and that “coupled with the difficulty that a lot of operators are seeing in terms of staffing more generally, it is making trading very challenging”.

“It is an issue we have been pushing really hard on with ministers over the last two weeks,” said Nicholls. “We have raised it as a matter of urgency and have asked for a test to release scheme for workers and some kind of enhanced regime for those workers that are double-jabbed.”

UKHospitality is keen that such a scheme would mirror that already in place for international travel, whereby workers would have to do a test on day two and day five and if both are negative they could return to work.

“Ministers are actually now talking about a daily testing regime for those workers that are double vaccinated – they can continue to work if they test negative each day – so I am hopeful that in a very short time we will be able to get that addressed, but is causing closures and putting stress on staff.”

Nicholls did say, however, that NHS Test and Trace have said that for staff working in a secure environment, for example back of house and not customer facing, or working behind a Perspex screen, that they are recommended that contract tracing is turned off at work, which will help some of the issues. “We are asking for that to be put out as public guidance.”

Speaking to MCA this week Matt Snell, chief executive, Gusto Italian, said the problem of staff being pinged by the app had been causing problems for the business. He had to close its Leeds restaurant for lunchtime service recently as it didn’t have enough staff due to one chef testing positive for Covid and 11 others then needing to self-isolate.