New self-isolation rules to tackle the Omicron variant could trigger a second pingdemic and cost Britain £2billion a month, ministers were warned yesterday.
From today, close contacts of anyone catching the new Covid strain will be required to isolate at home for ten days.
Industry leaders warned Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng that the rules could lead to a damaging pingdemic in the run-up to Christmas.
The first one caused chaos for firms, schools and individuals in the summer, with millions forced to isolate at home.
Pingdemic refers to the notifications from the NHS Covid app telling individuals to self-isolate.
From today, close contacts of anyone catching the new Covid strain will be required to isolate at home for ten days (stock image)
The rules were dropped in August for those who were fully vaccinated.
Boris Johnson announced at the weekend that self-isolation would be brought back as part of measures designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.
Even the fully-vaccinated will now be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone who tests positive for Omicron.
The Institute for Economic Affairs think-tank warned that the rule change could cost the economy £2billion if firms are crippled by large numbers of staff being forced to isolate in the run-up to Christmas.
There are also fears a return to self-isolation could cause a repeat of the chaos seen in schools last year, when whole classes were told to stay at home.
It was also claimed the new rules were unlikely to prevent a spread of infections.
Industry leaders warned Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng that the rules could lead to a damaging pingdemic in the run-up to Christmas (file image)
Currently just 20 per cent of positive Covid samples are being fully sequenced, meaning large numbers of cases of the new variant are likely to go undetected.
It can also take several days to fully sequence cases – meaning people may be contacted too late.
Julian Jessop, of the IEA, said: 'The main short-term risk to the economy comes from the tightening of the self-isolation rules, which could trigger another pingdemic.
'The impact of a repeat could now be greater, because the rules are being tightened in school term time and when labour shortages are a bigger problem. The new self-isolation rules could knock as much as 1 per cent off GDP in December, costing the economy at least £2billion.'
Stephen Phipson, head of manufacturers' group Make UK, told the Financial Times there was a risk that the self-isolation rules would exacerbate 'an already tough [staffing] situation', adding: 'We don't want to go back to the pingdemic.'
Downing Street insisted the new rules were proportionate, but acknowledged that they would be a challenge for some firms and individuals.
Currently just 20 per cent of positive Covid samples are being fully sequenced, meaning large numbers of cases of the new variant are likely to go undetected (file image)