The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and retail trade union Usdaw have urged caution surrounding the lifting of Covid self-isolation laws, saying that “retailers will need further details of the plans” and that the move will “put shopworkers at greater risk”.
The retail bodies have issued their pleas after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his intention to end self-isolation laws on 21 February, a full month earlier than planned.
Speaking on behalf of its retail members – which includes grocers Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose as well as discounters Aldi and Lidl – the BRC is asking customers to remain “considerate of those around them” and to “avoid retail settings” if they are showing symptoms.
“The Prime Minister’s suggestion that they will roll back all remaining Covid restrictions a month early, including the legal requirement to self-isolate, may further speed the return to a more normal experience for customers, employees and businesses, however, retailers will need further details of the plans,” stated the BRC’s director of business and regulation, Tom Ironside.
“Retailers ask customers to be considerate of those around them and avoid retail settings if they are showing Covid symptoms. Meanwhile, they will continue to implement many of the existing safety measures such as hand sanitiser and perspex screens throughout their stores.”
At the same time, Usdaw is backing Labour’s 10-point plan for living with Covid, which was published last month.
“Lifting the self-isolation rules will inevitably lead to more Covid-infected people circulating in public and entering shops,” said the trade union‘s general secretary Paddy Lillis.
“Coupled with last month’s unnecessary end to mandatory face coverings in stores, that leaves shopworkers at greater risk of catching the virus and taking it home to their families.”
Even without the legal requirement to isolate, Lillis points out that more people catching Covid will mean more sickness absence, reduced staffing levels and disruption in workplaces, which will have a huge financial impact on low-paid workers.
“We are concerned that the Prime Minster is more interested in appeasing his backbenchers, as he desperately tries to cling on to his job,” Lillis continued.
“The government must consider the impact of their decisions on key workers who have kept the country going through the pandemic. Retail staff deserve to be valued, respected and protected.”