The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have called on the government to provide cheap Covid-19 tests and clearer advice on how businesses can cope with surging infections as state support is canceled .
The industry body, which represents more than 70,000 businesses in the UK, said members were ‘still struggling to get ahead’ and were still reporting employee absence rates of up to 20 %. Government advice on how to protect vulnerable staff and customers, including pregnant women, is still “far too vague”, the BCC said.
It came as new figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a record 4.9million people in the UK had Covid-19 last week.
Free testing via lateral flow devices ends today for the general public. Free tests will now only be available to people at risk of serious illness from coronavirus, people eligible for treatment, NHS and adult social care staff, and others in high-risk settings.
Lateral flow tests bought privately will cost an average of £2 for a single test and £10 for a pack of five when bought from pharmacies or high street supermarkets, under the government’s ‘Living With It’ plans. covid”.
Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the BCC, said: “If the government is not ready to provide testing for the workplace, it must at least seek to guarantee low-cost options for companies in difficulty. who are already facing rising costs. crisis.
“Business leaders want to return to pre-pandemic business conditions and full capacity in the workplace, but are concerned about their legal responsibilities and liabilities once safe working guidelines are removed and replaced. by general public health guidelines.
Businesses need ‘clear advice’, especially small businesses that don’t have their own HR department to help them deal with these kinds of issues.
“For many businesses, ‘Living with Covid’ really means living with disruption,” Essex said. “A positive case of covid in a workplace can be extremely disruptive if it causes several other co-workers to become ill and cause them to miss work.”
Separate data from the ONS today showed that vaccination rates are lowest in the accommodation and catering sector (61.7%) and the construction industry (66.2 %).