The 5-day isolation period will still decimate businesses – it must be scrapped once and for all

The 5-day isolation period will still decimate businesses - it must be scrapped once and for all

Two weeks ago, business leaders and unions welcomed the decision to reduce the Covid self-isolation period to 5 days in England. After months of being hit by crippling staff shortages, the move was drastically needed, but in my opinion, it isn’t enough. 

At the beginning of the year, as Omicron continued to wreak havoc, experts claimed there would be an economic loss equivalent to 8.8% of GDP should high levels of absenteeism continue. Although the Plan B measures have since been lifted and the isolation period cut down, businesses are still facing a significant level of disruption to their operations. 

An important point which is getting overlooked, it that this continued disruption is coming at a time when many are trying to claw back the costs of keeping business going during the pandemic. Granted, some restrictions have been lifted, but the Government must remember that the majority of SMEs are by no means back to ‘normal’ operations. 

To date, the pandemic is estimated to have cost SMEs over £126.6 billion in total. In December, the number of company insolvencies in the UK had jumped above pre-pandemic levels for the first time. During the month of November, there were 1,674 registered company insolvencies in England and Wales ‘ that’s 88% more than the year before. 

What’s more, these disturbing figures come at a time when the worst of the pandemic is over, and so act as a reminder that even when Covid cases are falling, by no means is the nightmare for businesses done. For SMEs impacted by two years of repeated closures, a back and fore in ridiculous restrictions and rules, staff shortages, job vacancies and skyrocketing inflation, this damage will not easily be reversed. 

In fact, 75% of UK SMEs entered 2022 with debt. Even in the most normal of circumstances, it would take time for these businesses to get themselves back on an even keel. So how can the Government expect these debt laden businesses to thrive again, when they are still having to operate in hostile conditions?

As if the impending rise in National Insurance, spiraling inflation and the tapering-off of the final Covid-19 support schemes wasn’t enough, staff shortages and supply chain issues are still on the cards for 2022. When surveying this landscape, can our leaders seriously think that the level of support currently being offered is enough?

There are only two ways out of this mess. Firstly, that the isolation period for anyone who has contracted Covid-19 is fully scrapped. 5 days may be a good reduction from the original 10-day isolation period, but this can still be hugely obstructive to the operations of a business. The Covid-19 virus is not going to go away anytime soon. Surely, there must come a point, at which people who are positive are allowed to make their own decisions and act in a way which is right for themselves, their business and the people around them ‘ just as they are trusted to do with the flu or common cold. In my view, scrapping the isolation period in full is the only way for businesses and the economy to truly recover.

More importantly, until this is done, the Government must recognise and address the ongoing struggles of the businesses which are the backbone of the British economy. The battle isn’t done just because restrictions have been lifted. These companies have two years’ worth of lost business and debt to address, meaning many will feel they are fighting a losing battle. They are in desperate need of more financial support. 

Since 2020, businesses and every member of the British public have had their lives dictated by draconian Government rules. This cannot be allowed to continue throughout 2022. Unless the isolation period is ended in full, this will only act as another barrier to the UK getting back on its feet and, if anything, bring more companies to their knees and force unemployment rates higher. 

Simon Dolan
Simon Dolan

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