Businesses reveal 'pingdemic headache' as their operations are hit

The British business owners on the brink of ‘ping-demonium’: Small firms to big business are on the verge of complete SHUTDOWN due to staff being forced into isolation after ‘ping’ from NHS Test and Trace app

  • Nearly 900,000 alerts telling people to quarantine in first week of this month
  • In retail and hospitality a third of staff are self-isolating in the worst-hit areas
  • People across UK are being pinged by app and told to self-isolate for ten days 
  • ** Has your business been hit by the ‘pingdemic’? Email: tips@dailymail.com ** 

** Has your business been hit by the ‘pingdemic’? Email: tips@dailymail.com ** 

Factories are now on the verge of shutting and small businesses have already been forced to close because so many workers are having to self isolate across Britain in the ‘pingdemic’.

Nearly 900,000 alerts telling people to quarantine were issued in the first week of this month alone after contact with a coronavirus victim.

It is causing chaos for families and firms, prompting business leaders to demand changes on the NHS Covid-19 app to avoid a ‘self-inflicted economic wound’.

In retail and hospitality a third of staff are self-isolating in the worst-hit areas, forcing thousands of venues to shut. 

People are pinged by the app and told to self-isolate for ten days after coming into contact with an infected person.

There is no legal requirement to self-isolate if pinged by the app – however, it is illegal to disobey an order to self-isolate in a phone call from NHS Test and Trace.


Marie Peacock (left), chief executive at Yorkshire’s Brain Tumour Charity in Leeds; and Amy Baker (right), who owns a beauty salon in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, have both been speaking to MailOnline about the problems caused by the app 

An HR and training consultant blasted the Test and Trace system as ‘woefully inadequate’ saying that for many small businesses – especially in the hospitality, events and retail sectors – it is ‘crippling’.

Kate Underwood, who runs an HR and training consultancy firm in Southampton

Kate Underwood, who runs the Kate Underwood HR and Training consultancy in Southampton, said some of her small business clients ‘could have more than 75 per cent of their staff off at a time that when they need to be pulling out all the stops and starting to recover financially from this pandemic’.

She told MailOnline today: ‘I have been asked advice on what to do from many clients and my advice is still the same – use common sense – talk to your teams and get them to make the decision on whether to trust the app. Put in extra Health and Safety measures yourself like doing a lateral flow test prior to any shift.

‘From working in hospitality for 15 years, the passion from those that work in the industry is starting to get frazzled – they have been on furlough for months, now they get pinged to say they can’t work and furlough payments have dropped.’

Plans to make the NHS Covid app less sensitive, meaning fewer people would be pinged, have been delayed as concerns mount over rising infection rates. 

And businesses around Britain have today been revealing the problems caused by the ‘pingdemic’.

The boss of a brain tumour charity in West Yorkshire told MailOnline today how the ‘pingdemic’ was causing the organisation a ‘real headache’.

Marie Peacock, chief executive at Yorkshire’s Brain Tumour Charity in Leeds, said: ‘Our fundraising income has been decimated and we are just starting to see some opportunities to begin to bring in the money we need to keep our support going, and guess what? The pings are going bonkers.’

She said the charity was attending the Great Yorkshire Show over four days this week, but lost half of their planned staff and volunteer cover due to self-isolation, even though they were testing daily and were showing no signs of symptoms.’

Ms Peacock added: ‘I have had to move work and resources around, close our charity shop and try to cover the best way possible. ‘It is costing the charity additional time and money that we can ill afford. I will always support and encourage my team to follow the advice, but have to admit the app has been deleted from my phone.’

An HR and training consultant blasted the Test and Trace system as ‘woefully inadequate’ saying that for many small businesses – especially in the hospitality, events and retail sectors – it is ‘crippling’.

Kate Underwood, who runs the Kate Underwood HR and Training consultancy in Southampton, said some of her small business clients ‘could have more than 75 per cent of their staff off at a time that when they need to be pulling out all the stops and starting to recover financially from this pandemic’.

She told MailOnline today: ‘I have been asked advice on what to do from many clients and my advice is still the same – use common sense – talk to your teams and get them to make the decision on whether to trust the app. Put in extra Health and Safety measures yourself like doing a lateral flow test prior to any shift.

‘From working in hospitality for 15 years, the passion from those that work in the industry is starting to get frazzled – they have been on furlough for months, now they get pinged to say they can’t work and furlough payments have dropped.’ 


Timpson’s founder Sir John Timpson (left) and Imran Hussain (right), director of Harmony Financial Services mortage advisory firm , have also told of the problems with the system

Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Muller-Otvos said a complete shutdown of operations at its factories could not be ruled out

Businesses across the country are ‘only one ping away from a whole world of financial pain’, says independent coffee firm owner

The co-founder of a coffee business told MailOnline that businesses across the country were ‘only one ping away from a whole world of financial pain’.

Craig Bunting, co-founder of BEAR in Derby

Craig Bunting, co-founder of BEAR, a Derby-based independent coffee brand which has five stores in the UK, said not legalising the isolation requirements from the Test and Trace app ‘shows that the Government doesn’t trust its own technology and systems, so why should we, as small business owners?’

He added: ‘We have stores that have closed, meaning lost revenue, and others on a permanent knife edge. You’re only one ping away from a whole world of financial pain.

‘Despite this, and as much as I might personally want to, we don’t advise our staff to ignore the app, as we have a duty of care and responsibility as a brand to follow the guidance.

‘We see evidence that more staff are making their own decision to remove the app or turn off contract tracing altogether. As a result, the Government are losing or have already lost the trust of the public.’

 

Meanwhile, the owner of a beauty salon said she has suffered from having to self-isolate when her children ‘have the slightest cough’.

Amy Baker, who owns and runs Halo Beauty and Holistic Therapy in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, said she and her husband have both had hospital appointments and surgical procedures over the past year – each time having to have a Covid test 72 hours prior to the procedure, along with all the household.

And she told MailOnline: ‘If my children have the slightest cough, they too have had to take a Covid test and again (that) has meant that I have also had to isolate with them. 

‘Unfortunately because these are not informed by the app and because we get child tax credits via Universal Credit, we are not eligible to receive the £500 isolation payment.

‘Being self-employed in the beauty industry in the 72 hours I have lost income massively due to this. If I started getting constant track and trace pings and have to cancel people’s appointments, I fear I could lose customers.’

The director of a mortgage advisory company criticised the NHS app as a ‘disaster pretty much from the start’ and said trust from the public is ‘paper thin’.

Imran Hussain, from Harmony Financial Services in Nottingham, told MailOnline: ‘The Government not legislating that isolation is necessary if pinged does show a lack of faith from the Government in its own app, which has cost however many millions to create.

‘We don’t ever advise our team to ignore the app if pinged; as easy as it may be, I feel we have a responsibility to ensure we follow the guidance so we can all return to some normality as soon as possible. There’s no doubt that trust from the public is paper thin currently.’ 

As for bigger businesses, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce said the car maker was on the ‘edge of a critical situation’ after a large proportion of his UK staff were told to self-isolate.

Torsten Muller-Otvos said a complete shutdown of operations at its factories could not be ruled out, telling the Daily Telegraph: ‘Cases have gone through the roof and it is causing havoc.’

He declined to say how many of its staff had been pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app, but told how the company is now looking at having to combine staff from both shifts into a single shift. 

NHS England data showed a record 520,000 alerts were sent by the app last week, telling people they had been in close contact with someone who tested positive

And the number of alerts sent out in relation to venues also more than doubled in seven days

‘I’m livid’, says brewery owner who has six of his pubs shut due to staff shortages as he blasts Test and Trace as a ‘joke’ 

William Lees-Jones, the owner of J.W. Lees, a brewery and pub chain, currently has six of his 150 pubs shut because of staff shortages.

William Lees-Jones, the owner of J.W. Lees

He said: ‘I’m livid. It is frustrating at a time when we’re trying to recover. It’s one thing after another. Test and Trace has been a joke since it launched.’

The Manchester-based chain which was founded in 1828 has 42 managed pubs, inns and hotels – and also lets a further 105 venues to its pub partners.

At the start of July, Mr Lees-Jones said the number of his staff being asked to self-isolate by the NHS app had tripled in the previous few weeks from about 20 to more than 60. He said most were not ill or did not test positive for Covid-19.

Mr Lees-Jones has described Test and Trace as a ‘nightmare’ and is furious at how it appears hundreds of thousands of people are having to isolate despite not being ill.

It comes after the firm said it had been ‘religious’ about social distancing in its factories during the pandemic.

The company has more than 22,000 employees across seven sites in the UK, in Bristol, Rotherham, Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, Washington in Tyne and Wear and Inchinnan in Scotland.

The Timpson’s shoe repairs business has been badly affected by the ‘pingdemic,’ with more than 100 staff forced to isolate by the Test and Trace app.

Sir John Timpson, founder and owner of the chain, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier this week: ‘We are 140 people down… many due to isolation, which is people who have got to be home to look after children or people forced to isolate due to the Test and Trace app.’

The firm, which also runs three gastro pubs and restaurants in north Wales, also lost around £10,000-a-day when one – the Oyster Catcher, in Anglesey – was forced to close for similar reasons.

Sir John added: ‘We have three busy pubs and, one of those on Anglesey, we had 24 people isolating. We had to shut the pub, costing us £10,000 a day in turn over, the pub was shut for 10 days, it’s a real problem.’

His son, James, apologised for ‘a dip in the level of service’ in their shops. ‘Like many schools and businesses, we are struggling because so many colleagues are isolating after being ‘pinged’ by Test and Trace,’ he said. ‘We also have 120 colleagues who have had to stay at home to care for children sent home from school.’

Meanwhile car manufacturer Nissan is among the larger businesses hit by the ‘pingdemic’, with up to 900 staff at its plant in Sunderland said to be self-isolating.

The Japanese company, which employs 6,000 people at the major UK site, has had to make changes to how its factory is run due to the high number of employees being pinged by the app.

A Nissan spokesman said: ‘Production in certain areas of the plant has been adjusted as we manage a number of staff being required to self-isolate following close contact with Covid-19.

‘The wellbeing of our team is our number one priority and we remain confident in the rigorous safety controls we have on site.’

** Has your business been hit by the ‘pingdemic’? Email: tips@dailymail.com ** 

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