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Car retailers want urgent solution to COVID-19 isolation absences

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Car retailers are keen to see Government deliver an “urgent solution” to the issue of staff absences due to COVID-19 self-isolation regulations.

Government confirmed this week that individuals who have received two vaccinations jabs will no longer had to self-isolate after coming into contact with an infected person from August 16.

But as case numbers of COVID-19’s Delta variant continued to rise this week – from 28,008 last Thursday to 32,551 yesterday – increased contacts are expected to result in rising issues with self-isolation before then.

The BBC reported that 4.5 million people could still be asked to self-isolate between now and August 19 and car dealers told AM that a solution to staff absences has become the most pressing ongoing business issue ahead of the July 19 lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in England.

Speaking to AM this week about the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on July 19, Swansway director Peter Smyth described the issue of having healthy staff off work due to an alert to social contacts as “a constant pain”.

“We need to cut out the absences from work. If that means more regular testing, so be it,” Smyth told AM.

“Our people tell us that they want to be back in work, they want to get back to normal and the impact of these absences on staff and business is marked.”

Devonshire Motors dealer principal, Nathan Tomlinson, said the absence of healthy staff through calls to self-isolate or the need to care for children absent from school despite the absence of COVID-19 symptoms as having been an issue.

He suggested that frustration arose in situations where absences arose “as a result of either a false notification, confusion in process, or for emergency childcare as a result of a school reaction”.

In an interview with AM earlier this week, Marshall Motor Holdings chief executive Daksh Gupta said that his AM100 PLC’s 4,000-strong workforce had between 400 and 450 people off work in January this year.

He said: “The key to ending all this is the continuation of the vaccination programme.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of said “millions” would have to self-isolate in the coming weeks as cases rose, however.

“It won’t feel like freedom day to those who have to isolate, when they’re having to cancel their holidays, when they can’t go to the pub or even to their kid’s sports day,” he said.

Mr Johnson said the country was “moving to a system of testing rather than self-isolation”.

The issue of staff absences through self-isolation have been compounded by increases in the number of sick notes across the UK in recent weeks.

On-demand GP service, Gogodoc, reported a 78% increase in sick note requests in May, with 22% of sick note requests made for stress, 18% for anxiety and 12% for depression.

Dr Ashish Srivastava, medical director at Gogodoc, said: “While lockdown restrictions are being lifted throughout the country, our stats show that people are still really suffering from ill health – which is a result of such a challenging period of lockdowns which is continuing to affect the nation both physically and mentally.”

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