UK food workers to be exempt from Covid isolation
International desk || shiningbd
Key parts of the food industry will be allowed to do daily Covid testing from Friday instead of asking staff to self-isolate.
The government said daily testing would be implemented at key sites, such as supermarket depots and food manufacturers.
Close to 10,000 staff at 500 sites in the UK will eventually be affected.
It comes as supermarket bosses warn of severe staff shortages after thousands received alerts to self-isolate.
Supermarkets said the supply of some products was being affected by the "pingdemic" keeping staff away from work, as a record 618,903 people were told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app in England and Wales.
While some retailers said they may have to close stores, they downplayed fears of food shortages, saying the problems were not widespread.
The new daily contact testing measures will begin at 15 supermarket depots from Friday, followed by 150 depots next week, but it will not apply to supermarket store staff.
It will mean depot workers who are alerted by the app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace will be able to continue working if they test negative, whether or not they are vaccinated.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said "disruption is limited at the moment" but it was vital that the government rolls out the scheme as fast as possible and is prepared to take further action if necessary.
In a separate development, other key industries will also be allowed to deploy daily Covid testing instead of self-isolation for a limited number of essential workers who are fully vaccinated.
This scheme covers sectors including transport, emergency services, border control, energy, digital infrastructure, waste, the water industry, essential defence outputs and local government.