A survey by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) of its members has found that 78% of businesses lost staff to self-isolation in the week following ‘Freedom Day’ on 19 July.

The survey also revealed that, on average, businesses had lost 25% of their total workforce over a seven-day period and 72% of businesses now felt they would have to temporarily close parts of their operation or reduce opening hours due to shortages.

The NTIA is calling for a ‘test and release’ scheme for hospitality and event staff to mitigate the impact these shortages will have on employers, employees, and customers in the sector, which has already been one of the hardest-hit parts of the economy.

Event operators across the country have had to cope with the erratic unavailability of staff forced to isolate for 10 full days a result of possible contact with coronavirus. Shortages have forced some venues to reduce opening hours, and others to close.

Ministers have since provided a list of exempted sectors and industries, allowing vaccinated staff in “critical” workplaces to avoid enforced isolation. However, hospitality and night time economy industries were not included in this list and the NTIA warns that staffing turmoil will undermine its economic recovery without Government intervention.

Hospitality is the UK’s third largest employer, and the night time economy supports over 1.5 million employees and a large supply chain of sole traders and auxiliary businesses.

Significant portions of staff in the night time economy and events sector are young people, and many of these workers have yet to have had the opportunity to receive two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and thus be exempt from having to isolate in line with the rules due to be implemented on 16 August.

The NTIA said that, as a result, the ‘pingdemic’ is particularly acute for its sector, and the Government’s planned policy for reducing the impact of the problem will likely have less effect than in other sectors.

NTIA CEO Michael Kill said, “The figures revealed in our survey today are hardly surprising, as we have seen first-hand the carnage brought to operations due to last-minute staffing deficiencies. In short, this has become a logistical nightmare for managers and team members, has hindered our ability to plan, and has brought with it, similar operational challenges to what we faced during the lockdowns but without the corresponding Government support.”

“While we fully understand the importance of taking precautions to contain Covid-19, there must be a more efficient solution than forcing our businesses and workers into a perpetual limbo, and we would urgently ask the Government to introduce a ‘test and release’ scheme for our industry.”

Meanwhile, health secretary Sajid Javid said the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales is to be updated so that fewer contacts are instructed to self isolate after being in close contact with someone who has tested positive. When an asymptomatic person tests positive the app will look for contacts two days prior, rather than five. Javid said the move would reduce disruption but still protect those at risk.