Published: 18:21, 21 July 2021
| Updated: 18:29, 21 July 2021
A Wetherspoons pub has been forced to cut its trading hours after an outbreak of Covid-19 among staff.
Six employees at the Golden Lion in Rochester High Street have tested positive and another 11 workers have had to self isolate.
Eddie Gershon, Wetherspoon spokesman, said: "We can confirm that six employees from the Golden Lion in Rochester are currently isolating having tested positive for Covid-19.
"In accordance with NHS guidelines, these employees are required to self-isolate for the requisite 10-day period. Wetherspoon wishes the employees a full and speedy recovery.
"As a precaution, in accordance with public health guidelines, 11 other members of staff who may have come into close contact with the employees who tested positive or who have been notified by the NHS Covid-19 app are currently self-isolating for 10 days.
"Given the number of staff temporarily unavailable for work, the pub will be operating at a reduced capacity this week and the kitchen will be operating reduced opening hours from 9am – 9pm.
"Usual trading will resume as soon as possible when the staff who are isolating are able to return to work."
“People having to self-isolate because of getting pinged through the app is becoming an increasing problem."
Pubs already severely hit financially by lockdown are being forced to close after being pinged by the Covid app.
This week, as most restrictions came to an end as part of the government's Freedom Day, hostelries across the Towns were hoping for a fresh start.
But instead, many have had to call time again due to the rapid spread of the Delta Variant.
The Flying Saucer in Hempstead, The Bell at Bredhurst and The Cricketers in Rainham have had to shut to meet guidelines.
The company – along with others in the hospitality trade – is urging the government to change the rules about self-isolation on receipt of negative tests.
A spokesman said: “People having to self-isolate because of getting pinged through the app is becoming an increasing problem and in the last week alone we had to temporarily close 33 pubs nationwide.
"This is making it even more challenging to rebuild trade as we reopen and is very disruptive for our team members.
"Along with the rest of the hospitality industry, we are calling on the government to roll out a ‘test to release’ scheme to impacted industries allowing people to continue working if they receive a negative lateral flow test result.”
John Brice, chairman of Medway Licensed Victuallers' Association, which represents publicans across the Towns, said: "I think the idea of a ‘test to release’ system for the pub and restaurant industry is a positive proposal.
"When a staff member is 'pinged’, it doesn’t always mean they have Covid.
"An early-release system if they then take a negative test means they can get back to work quickly.
"Everyone in the pub trade is concerned that there could be a third big wave so we don’t want to have to suffer another enforced closure. However, this scheme seems to make sense.
"The majority of pubs are still keeping many of the safeguards in place despite the restrictions being lifted, so we are playing our part.
"We want to keep our staff and customers as safe as possible, but we do need to keep trading. We don’t want any more businesses to fail."
Last month a pub in Higham was closed after a Covid outbreak was confirmed among its regulars.
Brewery Shepherd Neame shut the Gardeners Arms after customers tested positive. The pub, in Forge Lane, between Medway and Gravesend, underwent a "full deep clean".
At the time, other licensed premises nearby warned people who used the pub to temporarily stay away.