As the government tries to prevent food supply problems, it’s been confirmed supermarket distribution workers and food manufacturers will be exempt from quarantine rules. The move comes after the rising number of retail workers being forced to self-isolate was having a detrimental affect on the availability of some products.
The government said workers, regardless of vaccination status, could undergo daily Covid testing instead of isolating. It’s thought more than 10,000 workers will qualify for the initiative, meaning if they are alerted by the app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace they will be able to continue working if they test negative, whether or not they are vaccinated.
The new daily contact testing measures are beginning at 15 supermarket depots, followed by a further 150 distribution hubs in the next 14-days, but the measures will not apply to supermarket store staff.
The announcement was made after supermarkets said the supply of some products was being affected by the so-called ‘pingdemic’ keeping co-workers absent from work. Last week across Wales & England, a record 618,903 people were told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app.
While some retailers said they may have to close stores, they downplayed fears of food shortages, saying the problems were not widespread. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
“Disruption is limited at the moment but it’s vital that the government rolls out the scheme as fast as possible and is prepared to take further action if necessary.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said daily testing of food industry staff would minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring other workers are not put at risk.