Customers, visitors and staff who are identified as having been in the same premises at the same time as someone with coronavirus will only be told to self-isolate in the case of prolonged and close contact, MCA’s The Conversation has heard.

UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said the contact tracing guidance was for people who have been closer than two metres for more than 15 or 20 minutes to an infected person to self-isolate.

She was speaking after the government last week released operating guidelines, which requests operators capture contact details for customers and visitors for 21 days.

Nicholls acknowledged some customers may well refuse to give their details when entering pubs due to fears of being told to stay at home for two weeks, and would be perfectly within their rights to refuse.

But she urged operators to do as much as they could to support the scheme, which she said would generate goodwill from the government towards the sector in the event of a further spike.

She told the virtual event: “I think it is worth bearing in mind when we talk about this, however frustrating we might find a last minute announcement about track and trace to be, and the challenges that will undoubtedly arise from it, that if we can be seen to be helpful to the government on this, it means we are less likely to see any reversal of the decisions they’ve made, either in terms of one metre, or in terms of the other parts of the industry that can open up.”

Under the scheme, public health officials may contact a premises to request a list of people who’ve been on the premises over the last 21 days.

The data could include contact details of the lead booker, the table’s time slot, where they sat on the premises, and which staff looked after them.

It is targeted at sit-down tables indoors, rather than outside tables, takeaway or click and collect.

Nicholls described the guidance as a “sticking plaster” until a government mandated or automated system is rolled out.

The request for staff data will include shift patterns, with regular and recorded shift patterns encouraged in the event of an outbreak.

Those working behind a counter or bar, or who have limited contact with an infected customer, are unlikely to be told to self-isolate, Nicholls said.

On the nature of the measures, she added: “The restrictions that people are putting in place, the mitigation measures, none of that has a regulatory basis. It is not mandatory, it is voluntary.

“So the customer can refuse, nobody’s going to require anybody to do anything. There’s no legislative backing.

“I do think people will be reluctant to give personal information out if they fear that they may then be unable to work for a given period of time.”