St Albans barber and landlord hit by Covid closures due to 'pingdemic'

Sam Campagna of Alternative Barbering Co on George Street, St Albans.

Sam Campagna of Alternative Barbering Co on George Street, St Albans. - Credit: Supplied

The controversial relaxation of lockdown restrictions has been accompanied by a so-called 'pingdemic', as people are forced to self-isolate because the NHS Track and Trace app said they have been in close contact with someone with Covid.

In St Albans, several businesses have temporarily closed their doors due to a lack of available staff, leaving them once again feeling the financial impact of the virus.

Sam Campagna, owner of Alternative Barbering Co on George Street, St Albans, said he has temporary closed his salon after two of his staff came into contact with positive Covid cases.

Because his team worked with those colleagues up to three days before the positive test he had to shut the entire business.

He is now urging other businesses to stay Covid-safe despite the easing of lockdown restrictions on Monday.

Sam said although he respects the pandemic regulations and will always act in the best interests of his staff and clients he fears that many others are not doing the same. 

The father-of-two said: "The main gripe I have is that I want to be doing my job. We feel like we are being punished for doing the right thing. Some barbers are not closing when they get the messages, some are using social media to promote they are against the vaccine, and there is one where nobody has worn masks through the entirety of the pandemic.

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"What I care about is that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet and I don't think we are. As the industry has shown all the responsible places are continuing to wear masks even now.

"My clients appreciate honesty and I know it is going to be easier after August 16."

From this date people in England who come into contact with a Covid sufferer will no longer have to self-isolate for up to 10 days.

Sam said that now businesses are not really getting any help from the government except furlough at 70 per cent. 

He added: "I really feel that the district council doesn't do enough from a health and safety point of view. Until our industry is regulated we are going to come up against these irregularities in practice."

Joe Tavernier, head of community services at St Albans district council said: “Covid Support Officers have visited many barber shops and hairdressers over the last year, both through the current contract, and previously, as a result of complaints received, where necessary followed up by Environmental Health Officer visits.

"In addition we have issued warnings, and in one case a fixed penalty notice of £1,000 on a barber shop business."

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks has been closed since last week.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks has been closed since last week. - Credit: Danny Loo

Meanwhile, England's oldest pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, missed out on the start of the summer heatwave after being forced to close last week after staff were 'pinged' by Track and Trace.

Landlord Christo Tofalli said on Friday: "Sadly we had to close for 10 days - including this beautiful weekend - due to Track and Trace sending all our staff home to isolate. Everyone is safe and well, we are just gutted at the timing.

"What a banger of a weekend it would have been after all of the rain. 

"We have one of the best and biggest beer gardens around, it’s 30 odd degrees today in the height of summer when we really need to take it, and it’s closed.

"The solution the government has ended up passing onto all of us is nothing less than abject failure.

"We currently don’t even have the ability to open and serve the little economy we have left to come back to.

"Independent hospitality will suffer to an extent that it will be decimated. Winter is on its way and if history teaches us anything, and we have enough of it in St Albans to go by, I see a revolt on its way."

He added on Monday: "This is going to keep happening. We just need to be able to open and stay open which is impossible, we keep paying the same set-up and set-down costs and at some point, it’s going to snap."

If anyone has concerns about how a business is operating under Covid, they can contact SADC's Environmental Health Team at