'Staff shortages' fears in Harrogate hospitality sector as Covid precautions look set to linger after July 19

Baltzersen's cafe on Oxford Street in Harrogate.Baltzersen's cafe on Oxford Street in Harrogate.
Baltzersen's cafe on Oxford Street in Harrogate.
A warning has been sounded that staffing shortages for Harrogate's worried hospitality sector may be the price of remaining Covid rules such as self isolation.

Despite the morale boost of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s intention of sticking to the roadmap to lifting all remaining Covid rules in England from July 19, one Harrogate business said self-isolation rules for staff or customers contracting the virus was the "elephant in the room."

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The continued reliance on self-isolation for those contracting Covid until August 16 is a source of genuine concern as the sectors of the economy most hit by the pandemic and lockdown rules over the last 16 months keep their fingers crossed for reopening - ie food and drink, hotels, travel, arts and events.

Paul Rawlinson, director of Baltzersens cafe in Harrogate said: “The elephant in the room is that the ten-day isolation period for close contacts remains in place, so the threat of businesses having to close due to staff being required to isolate still looms large.

"If the roadmap continues as planned then it does feel like another positive step forward.

"But we'll be consulting with our team and our guests around what actions they'd like us to take post 19th July to ensure they feel confident in our environment.

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"We don't think it will be an immediate reversion to pre-Covid practices."

Simon Cotton, managing director of the HRH Group which owns the Yorkshire Hotel, the White Hart Hotel and the Fat Badger bar, said he was worried about rising virus figures but he also expected the hospitality sector to feel the impact of any lingering precautions.

Mr Cotton said: "It is, without question, a massive step forward for all in the hospitality business and allows us to breathe a sigh of relief yes.

"I, for one, am looking forward to walking up to a bar and being able to order a pint and stand wherever I want to drink it but there are factors we will have to consider carefully."

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We have to understand that the rule of self isolation for those contracting Covid look set to remain in place.

"This means ongoing disruption to staffing levels at short notice and will impact customer service so we will have to rely on the public to be respectful of that.

"Even last week, we have seen a popular Harrogate restaurant close temporarily due to having no staff due to self isolation rules.

"We will have to be careful along the way to ensure our 'freedom' from restrictions."

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The Prime Minister is expected to confirm at a news conference today, Monday, at 5pm that all remaining limits on social contact will be lifted in England a week from today but is expected to emphasise that “caution is absolutely vital” in the face of the rising infection rate.

The Government's latest scientific data suggests the link between cases of the virus and hospitalisations is much weakened thanks to the vaccine rollout, though hospital admissions, serious illness and deaths from the pandemic will still continue.