Covid Scotland: Self-isolation restrictions will be 'as good as another lockdown', warn businesses

One of Scotland’s largest restaurateurs has claimed continuing with restrictions on self-isolation after the planned reopening in Scotland on August 9 would be “as good as another lockdown” for businesses.

Mario Gizzi, the owner of the Di Maggio restaurant group who own brands such as Cafe Andaluz, said a “bit more leniency” was needed on self-isolation for businesses to be able to continue operating.

He said he had been forced to close one of his restaurants, Topolabamba in Edinburgh, on Tuesday after three of his six chefs were required to self-isolate, costing him 80 per cent of his normal trade.

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The comments come as Nicola Sturgeon refused to say whether self-isolation would remain a legal requirement post-August 9.

Nicola Sturgeon was speaking at a Covid-19 briefing.Nicola Sturgeon was speaking at a Covid-19 briefing.
Nicola Sturgeon was speaking at a Covid-19 briefing.
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The Scottish Government is planning to remove the self-isolation requirement on double-jabbed individuals as Scotland opens up more fully.

Instead of a mandatory self-isolation period for close contacts, double-jabbed individuals would be able to avoid self-isolation if they receive a negative PCR test result.

However, most of those working in hospitality are younger people who are unlikely to be double jabbed and protected until October due to the requirement for two weeks to have passed since the second dose.

Self-isolating if contacted by Test and Protect or after testing positive is a legal requirement, but following the advice of the Protect Scotland app has always been advisory.

In a response to a question at a Scottish Government Covid-19 briefing, the First Minister refused to be drawn on whether the legal requirement to self-isolate would remain post-August 9.

She said: “I’ll tell you that when we set out on August 9, I’ve said repeatedly I’m not going to pre-empt decisions.

"We will take these decisions in the considered, I hope in the main, sensible way we take them.”

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Such a position could see a rise in the number of people forced to self-isolate, but who are unlikely to be severely affected by Covid-19.

Business lobby group the CBI has warned that "crippling staff shortages" risk hampering an economic recovery across the UK.

CBI president, Lord Karan Bilimoria, said: “With restrictions being lifted and cases rapidly increasing, we urgently need a surefooted approach from government, creating confidence to secure the recovery.

“This starts by immediately ending the self-isolation period of ten days for people who are double-jabbed and providing a route out of isolation for those not yet fully vaccinated through daily lateral flow tests. Against the backdrop of crippling staff shortages, speed is of the essence."

Mr Gizzisaid: “The safety of our staff is of paramount importance so we have to be government led, but as more and more of us end up double jabbed the effect of catching the virus should not be as dramatic as it was a year ago.

"Most of my staff are under 35 and the effect of the virus on that age group is not as severe as someone, say, my age.

"A wee bit of common sense has to come into it.”

Mr Gizzi said the existing rules and the impact of self-isolation had cut his trading by 80 per cent.

He said: "We have a brigade of six chefs and three of them are self-isolating as of today. That means we have to close our business today and tomorrow and we can only operate carry-out only for the next week or so.

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"That means we are trading at about 20 per cent of what it should be and it means my front-of-house staff, most of them won’t get any work and the newer bodies don’t qualify for furlough.

"If they don’t have a bit more leniency on self-isolation, it will be as good as another lockdown again as no businesses will be open.”

The comments follow concerns in England of a so-called “pingdemic” as hundreds and thousands of people are asked to self-isolate through the Test and Trace app.

Downing Street was forced to insist it was “crucial” for those ‘pinged’ on the English Test and Trace app to self-isolate after business minister Paul Scully said people can make an “informed decision” on whether to isolate.

Another minister in the business department, Lord Grimstone of Boscobel, stressed in a letter to one large employer that the app was only an “advisory tool” and that people were not under any “legal duty”

Pub chains, supermarkets, transport networks and other businesses are struggling to stay open as staff are forced to self-isolate due to being identified as close contacts.

Iceland and Greene King said on Monday they had had to shut shops and pubs as a result.

Businesses will be asked to apply to have their staff exempted from self-isolation requirements, the UK Government has said, but there is no indication as to whether this will be open to Scottish businesses.

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In a sign that Downing Street was scrambling to get its message back on track, a No.10 spokeswoman said: “Isolation remains the most important action people can take to stop the spread of the virus.

“Given the risk of having and spreading the virus when people have been in contact with someone with Covid, it is crucial people isolate when they are told to do so, either by NHS Test and Trace or by the NHS Covid app.

“Businesses should be supporting employees to isolate, they should not be encouraging them to break isolation.”

Earlier, Mr Scully told Times Radio: “It’s important to understand the rules. You have to legally isolate if you are on the … contacted by Test and Trace, or if you’re trying to claim isolation payments.

“The app is there to give … to allow you to make informed decisions. And I think by backing out of mandating a lot of things, we’re encouraging people to really get the data in their own hands to be able to make decisions on what’s best for them, whether they’re employer or an employee.”

Asked whether this meant people should or should not self-isolate if “pinged”, he said: “We want to encourage people to still use the app to be able to do the right thing, because we estimate it saves around 8,000 lives.”

However, he added that it was “up to individuals and employers”.

Boris Johnson had previously stressed the importance of self-isolation as “one of the only shots we have got left in our locker to stop the chain reaction of the spread of Covid” following the lifting of England’s restrictions.

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“I’m afraid that at this stage it’s simply a consequence of living with Covid and opening up when cases are high in the way that we are,” he said.

Asked about the chaotic handling of the issue, Home Office minister Chris Philp said: “I don’t think it is in a mess.”

He said there had been a “consistent” approach that “if people are pinged by the app they should self-isolate”.

Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery, who chaired the ethics advisory board for NHSX on its contact tracing app, said the UK Government needed to give clearer guidance to people about what to do when told to self-isolate.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises ministers, said: “Contact tracing and self-isolation play an important role in stopping cases getting out of control and preventing deaths.

“It’s important we maintain these measures as stringently as we can.”

But shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “The government is making it up as they go along.

“Ministers mix messages, change approach and water down proposals when the public and businesses need clarity and certainty.”

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