UK retail chains, pubs mull shutting some stores due to staff shortages amid rising Covid-19 cases

UK – The rising number of cases in the UK is presenting a new challenge to business operators as many employees have had to self-isolate themselves following contact with people who have tested positive. 

Recent figures showed more than 500,000 people in England and Wales were “pinged” by the NHS Covid app in the week to 7 July and required to self-isolate for 10 days for coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.   

According to a BBC report, the rising number of people who are being forced into self-isolation is having profound consequences for the economy with several establishments closing due to staff shortages.  

Others have had to shorten opening hours in some circumstances to make the most of the minimal labor that is currently available to them. 

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Greene King, one of the major pub retailers and brewers in the UK told BBC in an interview that its pub business had been severely impacted by the recent surge in Covid-19 cases. 

CEO Nick Mackenzie revealed that Greene King has been forced to close 33 pubs in the past week due to staff shortages caused by people being forced to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app. 

Mackenzie further noted that the pubs group had also had to shorten opening hours in some circumstances expressing fears that the problem could even get worse in the near future. 

Greene King is not alone, other companies including major retailers in the UK are also experiencing staff shortages. Marks & Spencer recently said it may have to reduce store opening hours if the rate of workers self-isolating continues to rise. 

BBC also revealed that a leading supermarket, which declined to be named, confirmed that  “there’s a risk that there won’t be sufficient staff to open shops”. 

Staff shortages have grown as England lifted final Covid restrictions on July 19, including the legal requirement to wear a face-covering to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Cases remain high across the U.K. with 316,691 cases reported over the last seven days, up around 43% from the previous seven-day period.  

Hospitalizations are low but are creeping higher, with 4,313 people admitted to hospitals in the last seven days, according to data from the UK government. 

The vast majority of infections are currently among younger age groups who are not yet vaccinated or are only partially protected.  

Recent events like the Euro 2020 soccer championships, which saw England fans gathered in pubs and bars around the country, have also been blamed for the rise in cases. 

With Covid threatening to bring the UK economy to a standstill, business lobby group the CBI has warned that “crippling staff shortages” risks hampering economic recovery. 

It has called for an immediate end to the 10-day self-isolation period for people who have been fully vaccinated. The group has further noted that said daily lateral flow tests could help people who have not received both jabs get back to work. 

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