Commenting on changes to Covid-19 testing rules, which mean positive lateral flow results for people without symptoms will no longer need to be followed up with a PCR test from 11 January, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) director of resources Lucy Robinson said: “Relaxing rules for Covid-19 testing will be hugely welcomed by businesses, many of which have been trying to operate fully with their hands tied behind their back due to staff shortages resulting from self-isolation regulations.
“Firms in many sectors, but particularly those in the hospitality trade, have been severely hampered by the huge number of people forced to isolate for longer than deemed necessary due to the delay in when the seven-period has started.
“Allowing those who are asymptomatic to return to work quicker will therefore be a major boost for companies that desperately need to claw back lost earnings from a festive period that has been quieter than usual due to fears over the Omicron variant.
“Given that there is a critical skills shortage across a wide range of industries – as evidenced by the Chamber’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey for Q4 2021, with eight in 10 of East Midlands businesses that attempted recruitment saying they struggled to find the right people – we can’t afford to lose anymore of our labour force.
“Of course, public health is the priority during the pandemic but it’s important we learn to live with Covid-19, with the focus shifting from state intervention to personal responsibility in the months ahead in order to protect our economy – which ultimately means people’s livelihoods – from long-term damage.
“Employers will also breathe a sigh of relief now that pre-departure testing is no longer required for travellers returning to the UK. With the February half-term being a popular time for holidays, this will hopefully prevent employees from being absent for any longer than necessary.
“It’s also a big boost for East Midlands Airport, a crucial asset in the region’s economy but one that has endured a difficult two years as its passenger operation has been decimated.
“Together, these announcements – coming hot on the heels of the Prime Minister saying there will be no further lockdown restrictions introduced imminently – will offer some form of certainty for businesses at a time when they need confidence to invest and grow our economy in the year ahead.”