COVID-19: Key areas of economy at 'breaking point' thanks to 'pingdemic', business leaders say

·3-min read

Business leaders say key areas of the economy are at breaking point as huge swathes of the population are forced into isolation by the NHS COVID App.

Creative Nature sells superfood snacks to a global market, and founder and CEO, Julianne Ponan, says she is worried about the next few weeks.

"I personally didn't expect 'Freedom Day' to be as soon as it has been. Everything opened in one go.

"I do feel this is quite hard on businesses in general… how are they going to control it? How are we going to move forward with it?

"Is it just going to be constant? Is it going to be a 'ping' and then a week later another 'ping'?"

The 'pingdemic' - as it's been called - is a double whammy for many sectors of the economy.

Ports are now experiencing significant levels of staff absence - as high as 10% in some places. The knock-on for supply chains is enormous.

And high street giants like Marks and Spencer are also suffering with warnings that stores may have to close early.

Elsewhere, it could turn into a long, hot febrile summer.

Frontline health workers will be exempt from self-isolation in exceptional circumstances but many nurses, like Naomi who works in intensive care, are furious at the government's handling of this crisis.

She told Sky News: "To exempt us from self-isolation when they are giving out the guidelines to the wider public to self-isolate and protect their families - why are we not being protected as a workforce?

"Why are we not being protected to ensure patient safety?

"Why do we have to go off to work and put others at risk?... I think it's absolutely abhorrent."

There is significant frustration everywhere but calls from some sectors to make the app less sensitive have been dismissed by the authorities.

The problem the government has is balancing the opening up of the economy with a pandemic that is still raging.

It's why Boris Johnson says test, trace and isolate - which includes the contact tracing service and the NHS app - is still an essential part of the country's response.

In fact, because of the political choices that have been made, it's one of the few levers the PM has left to pull in the face of rapidly rising infection rates.

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The government has now ruled out a critical jobs list. Instead, employers will have to apply for an exemption from isolation - but only for workers who've been fully vaccinated.

At Food Innovations where they're struggling to recruit enough staff anyway, head of finance Pete Gillanders says the dreaded 'ping' and its bureaucracy is another thing to contend with.

"I think this is a real mistake by the government not to do it as straightforwardly as they did with the key workers.

"We were open throughout the pandemic and it sounds like this could be a real admin burden for us to try and figure out who has been vaccinated, who is allowed back, and who is not and then to apply on a case-by-case basis for each individual."

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