Food manufacturing and supermarket depot workers contacted by NHS Test and Trace will be able to continue working if they test negative daily, whether or not they are vaccinated.
Some staff in the food supply chain industry will be exempt from self-isolation rules as the government tries to prevent food supply problems. The announcement comes after concerns that track-and-trace ‘pinging’, which notifies staff that they need to self-isolate, has led to reported labour shortages among supermarkets.
This intervention, the government said, should alleviate concerns in the food industry about supplies and lack of availability on retail shelves. Supermarket depots and food manufacturers – part of a list of designated sites – will be able to administer the tests that will enable workers to skip the need for self-isolation.
Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast, “We’re never going to take risks with our food supply chain.” Eustice added that a list of about 200 food production sites were covered by the new rules. However, currently, it is unclear which companies will be on the list.
Between 8th and 15th July in England and Wales, a record 618,903 people were told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app.
The government said workers, regardless of vaccination status, could do daily Covid testing instead of isolating. It is expected that up to 10,000 workers in the food manufacturing industry will qualify for the new scheme. The scheme will not apply to retail staff.
The new daily contact testing measures are beginning at 15 supermarket warehouses, followed by 150 depots next week.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said “disruption is limited at the moment”, but further stated that it was essential that the Government rolled out the scheme as fast as possible and was prepared to take further action if necessary.