The Government announced on Thursday (22.07.21) that ‘pinged’ food and drink sector employees won’t have to self-isolate if they show a negative COVID-19 test result.
With just under 620,000 people receiving a ‘ping’ from the contact-tracing app last week and having to self-isolate, a large number of food and drink sector workers haven’t been able to go to work. This has affected the food and drink industry, as well as petrol stations – many of which have had to close – transport and health sectors. Supermarkets, food manufacturers and distributors have experienced food shortages, particularly of hot weather items, such as bottled water, beer, soft drinks and fresh vegetables.
As from this week, ‘pinged’ food and drink sector workers, as well as transport, energy and health employees, will be able to go to work as long as they have been vaccinated twice and show a negative COVID test. Food retail employees however are exempt from the new rule and will have to continue to self-isolate if they’ve been in contact with somebody with coronavirus.
The Government has announced that testing sites will be set up at 500 distribution centres of larger supermarkets next week.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for COVID and is currently self-isolating and working from home, said: “As we manage this virus and do everything we can to break chains of transmission, daily contact testing of workers in this vital sector will help to minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk”.
The latest move from Westminster is seeking to minimise a food, health, energy and transport sector disruption and stopping people from deleting the much criticised contact-tracing app, potentially resulting in a huge spike of undetected infections.
Tesco, Lidl, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op have all reported food shortage. Despite the situation, the food sector has shown resilience and pragmatism. The Co-op is employing 3,000 temporary employees, whilst Iceland will temporarily replace self-isolating workers with 2,000 new recruits to make sure their food shelves are stocked up.
A spokesperson for the Co-op told The Guardian: “We are sorry that we are running low on some products. Like many retailers, we are impacted by some patchy disruption to our deliveries and store operations but we are working closely with our suppliers to get re-stocked quickly.”