Construction bodies join call to end ‘pingdemic’

Image: Dreamstime/Juan Moyano

Build UK and the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) have both called for rules relaxing requirements for covid-19 self-isolation for double-vaccinated workers to be accelerated to end the ‘pingdemic’ that is seeing thousands of workers forced to self-isolate.

The government has moved to give workers in specific sectors exemption from quarantine rules in a bid to prevent supply chains from collapsing as hundreds of thousands of workers are forced to take time off work to self-isolate, having been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

The government had planned to ease self-isolation rules for fully vaccinated adults from 16 August but has now been forced to bring that forward for essential workers in certain sectors following warnings that essential services could be shut down and food supplies affected. A record 618,903 people were told to self-isolate between 8 and 15 July.

Around 10,000 workers are expected to qualify for the government’s exemptions. Fully vaccinated essential workers in sectors such as energy, civil nuclear, waste, water, medicine, and local government will be able to continue working under a daily covid-19 testing regime instead of self-isolating.

Construction workers do not appear to be included in the scheme. Yesterday (22 July), Build UK said it supported the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) call for fully vaccinated individuals identified as close contacts to be made exempt from self-isolation as soon as possible, rather than waiting until 16 August.

Today (23 July), CLC co-chair Andy Mitchell said: “We have reports from across the industry of plants, sites and offices having to wind down activities as staff have been asked to isolate. This is putting very significant pressure on the sector, risking project delivery and even the viability of some firms.

“Where staff are already fully vaccinated, and recognising that such people will be free
to work from 16 August anyway, we are asking the government to bring forward this
date for essential industries like construction, ensuring that the industry doesn’t grind
to a halt”

CBI director-general Tony Danker said: “The current approach to self-isolation is closing down the economy rather than opening it up. This is surely the opposite of what the government intended. Businesses have exhausted their contingency plans and are at risk of grinding to a halt in the next few weeks.

“What is now needed is a well-balanced approach to reopening the economy, rather than the awkward compromise that currently exists.

“We can end the pingdemic by bringing forward the date by which all those who have been double-jabbed no longer need to self-isolate if not infectious and introducing a test and release scheme.

“Then, with infection rates rising, mitigations should also be put in place. The vast majority of businesses today are already behind this approach – demonstrating to employees and customers their diligence on covid safety and this approach should be extended to other settings.

“We must also ensure workplaces have access to an effective, accessible testing regime. With workplace testing due to end in a matter of days, firms need urgent clarity on how community testing will work in practice.”

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