HOTELS and restaurants in York are losing thousands of pounds due to mass isolations among staff.

A rising number of venues are reporting reduced services and even temporary closures after members of staff have been told to self isolate by the NHS Test and Trace alerts.

It takes just one positive case on site for alerts to flood in. Industry figures say this is damaging, and should be replaced by a ‘test and release’ system enabling fit and healthy people to continue to work while still being monitored.

Among those affected is Middlethorpe Hall in York after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the rest of the kitchen team to self-isolate for 10 days.

Five key workers who all have to self-isolate has also led Walmgate Ale House and the Chopping Block in Walmgate to close for a week and cancel scores of bookings.

Half of Grays Court’s front of house team has also been told to self isolate by Test and Trace. The hotel has closed its bar, lunch and dinner operations until July 13.

Owner Helen Heraty said the situation was likely to get worse from July 19 with rates of the virus continuing to rise. She said millions could be off work after being ‘pinged’ by alerts over the coming weeks.

“What really hurts is that we have been through 16 months and it is as if this lunatic proposal from the government just to release everyone and continue to track and trace will finish us off at the last hurdle,” she said.

“It’s devastating. Every morning we are quaking in our boots that there might be another one off. We were fully booked. We take as much in the restaurant as we do in the hotel so that’s immediately a 50 per cent cut in what we were expecting.

“We have lost three of our hotel bookings which is another £1,500 because they were coming to dine. We would have expected to turn over £15,000 in the week and that’s gone.”

Grays Court staff regularly get tested and have all since tested negative, yet are unable to work and have so far struggled to access financial aid.

“They are at home and can’t earn any money. They are not ill, that’s the irony. I genuinely cannot afford to pay people’s wages if there’s nothing coming in. The kitchen have all had to take holiday this week. We are being closed by stealth.

“Once everything opens up this could be happening every day. I have been out in town and it looks as if it is as busy as ever with crowds of stags and hens.”

As a business, they had been better off during lockdown, said Helen.

“We were forced to close, everything was suspended, guests understood why we couldn’t operate and there was financial assistance in terms of furlough. This week we are essentially being forced to close without any support.”

Simon Mahon, general manager at The Grand hotel, said: “The safety of our team and guests is paramount and therefore we always comply with all government guidelines, however, we are aware of the impact track and trace has had on the wider industry. We, like many in the hospitality business, believe that a test and release system would have a positive impact.”

Ian Payne, chairman of the Stonegate group of pubs, including the Slug & Lettuce and Yates’, revealed that the chain had around 1,000 people off after being alerted by NHS Test and Trace.

UKHospitality wants a testing system which enables staff to continue working while still being monitored for the virus. “If the system remains as it is, there’s a threat of mass isolations, which would hugely damage trade, putting many companies at risk of failure,” said chief executive Kate Nicholls. “A strong focus on testing when cases are identified, rather than isolating fit and healthy people, would help to avoid mass isolations.”

The government said self-isolation was currently an essential part of the public health strategy, but is exploring whether daily tests could be used instead for people exposed to the virus.

York Central MP Rachael Maskell said: “With Covid19 infection rates soaring, and people still becoming very sick from the virus, it would be reckless for Government to lift all restrictions.

“Scientists are urging caution. Venues are becoming too busy to prevent the spread of Covid19 and social contact is also acting as a convector.

“It has been a really challenging time for businesses, but they need to continue to ensure that Covid19-secure protocols and practices are strictly adhered to; Government must provide on-going support to recognise the economic impact of their policies which are putting pressure on businesses, education and on our GPs in managing the fall out of this.”