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Gloucestershire Business News

Survey shows face masks still popular as nation faces 'pingdemic'

Almost two thirds of adults say they will carry on wearing face masks in shops and on public transport even though it's no longer a legal requirement, a survey shows.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 64 per cent of the public planned on continuing to wear face coverings even after the removal of most legal restrictions in England today.

The survey results come as the country faces what's being dubbed a 'pingdemic' as workers receive alerts from the NHS Test and Trace app to self-isolate. On 'Freedom Day', the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Health Secretary are all self-isolating to follow Covid test rules.

Humphrey Cobbold, the CEO of PureGym, which has branches in Gloucester, Quedgeley and Cirencester, said: 'We've been talking internally about living in the United Pingdom and it's become a huge challenge for individuals and businesses', adding his staff are 'being pinged all the time'.

He added: 'Up to 25 per cent of our staff in some areas have been asked to self-isolate. Through flexibility and sharing of labour we've been able to keep sites open so far but it's been a really close call."

The Road Haulage Association also warned of impending chaos in supply chains. Chief executive Rod Mackenzie told the FT: "Far from freedom day being freedom day, it's going to be disaster day."

Iceland, with stores in Gloucester and Cheltenham, has reported that after keeping all of its stores open during lockdown, it had now shut some, because 1,000 staff have been "pinged".

Steve Rowe, M&S chief executive, warned that being forced to self-isolate is "a major issue across every industry at the moment".

He told The Times: "Our Covid cases are roughly doubling every week and the pinging level is about three to one of Covid cases, so we're seeing that growing exponentially." He said store opening hours may have to be reduced.

The Mail reports that experts estimate around 1.7million people are self-isolating after being 'pinged' and the UK could face up to 200,000 positive test results a day.

Meanwhile, the ONS poll found that most adults believe that measures such as wearing a face covering when shopping (90 per cent) and social distancing (88 per cent) were important.

More than half (57%) of adults reported they were worried about the plan to remove most legal restrictions; this included one-fifth (20%) who were 'very worried'.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: "We are already seeing a serious impact on retail operations as a result of staff having to self-isolate and this will only get worse right across the economy, as cases are already rising fast, and the final restrictions are eased."

Lord Karan Bilimoria, CBI President, called for double-jabbed individuals to be allowed not to self-isolate for 10 days.

But the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, this weekend revealed that he had tested positive, and had mild symptoms, despite being double jabbed.

Lord Bilimoria said: "With restrictions being lifted and cases rapidly increasing, we urgently need a surefooted approach from government, creating confidence to secure the recovery.

"Mask wearing in enclosed spaces, especially transport, will help create confidence for both staff and customers, as will clarity around the future availability of free testing for employees." 

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