Supermarket workers are deleting the
The frozen food giant’s managing director Richard Walker said staff were trying to avoid being ‘pinged’ to self-isolate by removing it from their phones.
He said he did not condone the move but added: ‘To be honest, who can blame them?’
It comes after the exemption list of those who do not have to quarantine if they are pinged by the app was extended.
Binmen, vets and prison officers were among the workers who qualify for the daily testing scheme instead – but supermarket workers were left off.
Meanwhile ministers were under pressure to reveal how many of the 2,000 testing sites they have promised for critical workers.
The frozen food giant’s managing director Richard Walker (pictured) said staff were trying to avoid being ‘pinged’ to self-isolate by removing it from their phones
He said he did not condone the move but added: ‘To be honest, who can blame them?’ Pictured: File photo of an empty store last week
It comes after the exemption list of those who do not have to quarantine if they are pinged by the app was extended (file photo)
SECTORS ELIGIBLE TO TAKE DAILY TESTS AND NOT HAVE TO ISOLATE
The Government announced that some fully vaccinated staff in some critical sectors would be exempt from having to self-isolate if they are ‘pinged’.
People working in those sectors will be subject to daily Covid-19 testing instead, allowing them to keep working.
The list of sectors now includes:
- The food industry
- Transport workers
- Border Force staff
- Frontline police
- Fire services
- Waste collection
- Veterinary medicine
Mr Walker told the Today programme: ‘Last week I was talking about a 50 per cent week on week increase, it was quite an alarming extrapolation if you looked at where it was heading.
‘It’s started to steady and actually the last couple of days day on day the pinging has started to drop.
‘Now our staff are law abiding citizens but with all of their sick pay used up with peak holiday season it feels to me like potentially they’re starting to delete the app on mass that they weren’t previously doing.
‘And to be honest who can blame them.
‘I’m not condoning it but I can understand why they are doing it and this is not law this is government guidelines but it has to be pragmatic and our staff are working so hard and have been nothing short of heroic throughout this pandemic.’
He said stores were facing the ‘perfect storm’ due to the pingdemic, peak holiday season for workers and a shortage of HGV drivers.
Mr Walker continued: ‘Supermarket workers are still not exempt it’s only depot and factory workers so it only fixes half the supply chain issue therefore it is a pointless solution.
‘There’s plenty of stock to go around, we’ve still got deliveries available but our staff are having to work really hard to keep the show on the road.
‘In many ways we’re now facing the perfect storm.
‘We have the pingdemic which is still affecting stores and suppliers for now, we’re in peak holiday season because everyone deserves a break having worked on the frontline for the last 18 months.
‘And of course we have this HGV driver shortage issue which is about our overly onerous quarantine rules. So everything has started to come at once.’
The government expanded the list of jobs that were exempt from self-isolation if pinged to include industries such as binmen, vets and prison officers on Monday.
This unless they can take part in a daily Covid tests to confirm that they too are not infected.
The Government announced last week some fully vaccinated staff in critical sectors would be exempt from having to self-isolate if they are ‘pinged’.
Those people will be subject to daily Covid-19 testing instead, allowing them to continue to go to work.
The Ministry of Health confirmed an expansion of sectors that can take daily tests instead of isolating on Monday.
A statement said: ‘In addition to critical staff working in prisons, defence and waste collection, people working in energy, pharmaceuticals, telecoms, chemicals, communications, water, space, fish, veterinary medicine and HMRC will also be prioritised for the 1,200 new daily contact testing sites.
The hospitality sector was not included in the expansion, meaning staff who are ”pinged” will still have to quarantine.
The Government is rolling out testing capability to hundreds of sites to help ensure critical sectors can continue to function
Ministers are also under pressure to reveal how many of the 2,000 testing sites they have promised for critical workers are now up and running.
The Government on Monday announced an extra 1,200 daily contact testing sites for key workers like prison staff, waste collectors and defence personnel.
That is on top of the 800 sites pledged last week for the food industry, transport workers and the emergency services.
But it remains unclear how many of the facilities are operational after reports yesterday that just 25 of 500 sites for food distribution workers were ready.
Downing Street unable to say how many of the facilities were live when approached by MailOnline.
MailOnline also contacted the Department of Health for an update but is yet to receive a response.
It emerged the beleaguered NHS Test and Trace is helping to set up the sites in the hope they will be ready this week.
It comes amid mounting concerns over the complexity of the exemption scheme so people can continue to go to work.
Business chiefs labelled the government’s handling of the ‘pingdemic’ an ‘incoherent mess’ and warned there could be food shortages due to staff absences.
Bar, pub and restaurant workers are still subject to the stay-at-home requirement if they are ‘pinged’ as a close contact of a positive coronavirus case.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said the Government is having to ‘balance’ the needs of critical sectors with stopping the spread of the disease.
He urged people to wait for August 16 which is when the self-isolation requirement for the double-jabbed is due to be ditched.
The Government announced the new additions to the exemptions list on Monday night.
More key workers will be eligible for the testing scheme under the plans, with 1,200 new workplace sites introduced in a bid to avoid disruption to crucial services as cases soar.
They join those working in the food industry, transport workers, Border Force staff, frontline police and fire services, after several sectors warned of staff shortages caused by the self-isolation rules.
The announcement of more testing sites, which brings the total number to 2,000, came after ministers on the Covid operations sub-committee of Cabinet met on Monday.
The scheme uses lateral flow tests to allow eligible workers who have been pinged by the app or called by NHS Test and Trace to continue working, provided they test negative each day.
Mr Malthouse defended the decision not to include hospitality workers in the scheme, telling Sky News: ‘We are obviously having to balance the risk of contagion, controlling the spread of the disease because it is still out there don’t forget, we are still as you say 24,000 cases on Monday.
‘It was having to control that against the need to keep critical sectors of our economy going.
‘As you know we have spread this test and release to other critical areas of the country so policing, emergency workers, some in food supply, to try and keep that going.
‘And I know that the department of health and business are in constant conversation with business about what they need to keep going.
‘We have only got a couple of weeks to go now until the 16th when double jabbed people will be released if you like so we have just got to get through the next two weeks and make sure we control that virus and we can do that safely and cautiously.’
Asked if he was confirming the August 16 change to the rules will go ahead, Mr Malthouse replied: ‘As I say, I was asked on Sunday whether it would be earlier, I think that is unlikely.
‘Let’s all hope the numbers go well to the 16th but people will be assessing in the week before what the numbers look like and then taking a decision nearer the time.’
Many firms believe it will take at least a week to set up testing facilities so that workers can be checked daily.
That has prompted warnings that there could be food shortages in the coming days.
Food supply chain bosses were reportedly invited to a Government virtual summit yesterday to be told how the testing regime will work.
Business leaders told The Times they will have to pass ‘really quite rigorous protocols’ to be eligible to take part, with strict rules on data gathering.
Shane Brennan, the chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, a trade body which represents chilled and frozen food storage firms, told the newspaper: ‘You’ll be building something that looks quite a lot like a vaccination centre.’
Mr Brennan said supermarkets will ‘probably continue to see some interruptions in supply’ as he described the Government’s handling of the issue as an ‘incoherent mess’.
The Department of Health said the testing facilities ‘will be the responsibility of the individual companies’ but the Government will offer support.
Downing Street was on Monday unable to say how many of the 500 food sector-specific testing sites were up and running.
The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘We expect 500 sites to be able to test within this week and we said at the end of last week we have rolled out the workplace contact testing following the Government’s engagement with the industries that have been affected by self-isolation.
‘It is obviously the case that we want to avoid any disruption in critical services which is why we have expanded that testing.’
Pushed again on how many were operational amid reports that it was only 25, the spokesman replied: ‘It will be 500 by the end of the week.’
The vast number of people self-isolating after being advised to by the NHS app has been fuelled by the high numbers of coronavirus infections that have swept the nation as the Delta variant thrived and restrictions were eased.
The scale of the issue was shown by figures stating more than 600,000 people in England and Wales were told to quarantine by the NHS Covid-19 app in the week to July 14.
Ministers have so far resisted pressure from business leaders and some senior Conservative MPs to bring forward the wider relaxation of isolation rules for all fully-vaccinated people in England from August 16.
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