Advice on practical steps for retailers to take to avoid major disruption to their businesses as a result of notifications to isolate from the Covid-19 app has been published by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
In the last week alone, more than half a million people have been notified to isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app, leaving many businesses with significant staff shortages.
The Government has confirmed that notifications received through the NHS Covid-19 app to isolate are advisory and not a legal requirement, being part of a separate system to NHS Test & Trace, which does have legal backing.
The advice issued by ACS to convenience store retailers and more than 412,000 colleagues working in stores is:
- if you receive a notification from the NHS Covid-19 app to isolate, get a lateral flow test straight away;
- make sure other colleagues in the business also take a lateral flow test as soon as possible and continue to test regularly;
- those who continue to test negative can carry on as normal;
- those who test positive should isolate until Covid-19 can be confirmed with a PCR test
ACs emphasises this advice is conditional on no symptoms being shown. Anyone showing symptoms is advised to isolate immediately and get a PCR Test. Additionally, if anyone is contacted by the NHS Test & Trace service (not the app) then they must comply with the requirement to isolate.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers are confused and frustrated with the lack of clarity over the rules on isolation, with many fearing the worst as more of their staff are pinged by the app. We have been pressing for workable advice from government which we can amplify and explain to retailers, but as this has not been provided we are having to come up with our own advice to try to find a way through this emergency situation.
“The key to successfully identifying those who have Covid-19 is regular testing, and yet the Government is stopping the provision of free tests to businesses on July 19th. We are urging the Government to rethink this and allow businesses to order tests free of charge at least through the summer while infection rates are rising. Colleagues can get tests directly from GOV.UK”
ACS has previously written to business minister Paul Scully, urging the Government to bring forward the date when under 18s and those who have had two doses of the vaccine would be exempt from isolating if in close contact with someone with Covid-19. Currently, the rules are set to come into force on August 16th. The letter also pressed for clarity on the status of face coverings in stores.
Lowman added: “For stores in England, the requirement to wear a face covering will become a recommendation on Monday. We’re advising stores to keep signage in store reminding people of the benefits of face coverings, as well as considering keeping other distancing measures like Perspex screens and traffic light systems at the door to limit the number of customers.”
More detailed guidance on what retailers should do from July 19 is available here: https://www.acs.org.uk/advice/covid-19-coronavirus