HOSPITALITY venues could be entering the “worst part” of the Covid crisis as a “pingdemic” of test and trace alerts forces many to closed, it is claimed.

Andy Lennox, who leads the industry pressure group Wonky Table, said businesses would struggle unless the alert system was relaxed or businesses were given more financial help.

More than 500,000 “pinged” alerts were sent to users of the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales in the week to July 7, telling them they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid.

Bournemouth Echo:

Mr Lennox queried on social media whether the trade was dealing with a “pandemic or a pingdemic”, adding: “There is literally zero point in us having a ‘freedom day’ if we are all closed due to NHS Test and Trace.”

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Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the industry group UKHospitality, has said businesses have predicted a third of hospitality workers could soon be isolating.

Mr Lennox said: “In the whole industry it’s absolutely rife everywhere. There’s so many staff everywhere being track and traced.”

He recently closed his Bournemouth Zim Braai restaurant temporarily when kitchen staff were forced to isolate. He currently has eight people isolating – around 15 per cent of staff – across his businesses.

“They’re isolating for 10 days, while we’re saying people can go to Wembley with a lateral flow test,” he said.

He is calling for a “test and release” policy to allow staff to return to work.

“We’re testing every day. We’re testing people all the time. Surely that should be the way to control it. People are getting isolated right, left and centre,” he said.

“We’re really worried about a situation where we’re all going to reopen, restrictions will be lifted and we’re going to have to close because we won’t have our team.

“I think this will be the worst part of it because there’s no financial support and we’re all getting pinged and not having any idea of the reason for it.

“We don’t want more financial support, we want to just operate.”

The numbers of people being told to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app has also hit other industries, with Nissan and Rolls-Royce warning production could be affected.

In Hampshire, 30 per cent of staff at ferry firm Red Funnel were isolating earlier this week, with 51 job vacancies unfilled.