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Data suggests some stores have been forced to close in the past month due to growing numbers of self-isolation alerts from the NHS test-and-trace service.

While the numbers remain low, retailers reported escalating staff absences as the daily Covid-19 case tally continued to rise.

Wholesale data from Smiths News also indicated closures caused by self-isolation alerts.

A spokesperson said: “We have only had four closures for Covid-19 since the start of June, and each case has been for a period of approximately 10 days, which would tie in with a self-isolation case.

“We have spent time checking in with retailers that have decided to temporarily close down, throughout the pandemic and ensure we provide information on best practice for once they are ready to reopen to ensure they have supply.”

Covid-19 case rise hits shop staff

A source at a UK-wide newspaper publisher was also asked by betterRetailing to review the number of its stockists operating in the last month.

The company said while the current numbers were not “concerning us as yet” the source had spotted ‘movement’ in the number of stores suspending trade, but was unable to identify the cause.

Store owner Ken Singh, of Boghar Bros Store in Pontefract, said several other shops nearby to his “had to close temporarily due to self-isolation alerts”, and feared the same for his business, despite having staff on standby and operating in shift bubbles.

“My business has five employees. If one has to self-isolate, it can potentially cause the shop to close temporarily,” he said. The accuracy of the NHS test-and-trace app was a particular point of contention for stores.

The concern was mirrored by the public and other sectors, forcing the government to turn down the ‘sensitivity’ of what it considers to be a person coming into contact with a person who has tested positive.

Mask laws ‘ignored’ as ‘Freedom Day’ nears

The number of alerts through the app reportedly rose by 60% last week.

Although it is a legal requirement to self-isolate if contacted directly by NHS Test and Trace, there is no obligation to do so if alerted through the app.

One retailer, who asked not to be named, told betterRetailing: “I’ve had the majority of my staff receive alerts to self-isolate through the app, despite them all testing negative.

“I’ve got a measure whereby I allow them to work if they test negative 48 hours after receiving an alert, otherwise I’d have no staff at all.”

Wholesalers are also at risk of being overwhelmed. One told betterRetailing: “We had 11 in self-isolation and three of those had a positive test. It could get challenging if we have 20 to 30.”

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