Food supply gets 'pingdemic' help but no joy for hospitality
By Richard Wright | 23rd July 2021
Workers at supermarket depots and in food production will be exempt from self-isolation rules as the government steps in to halt a looming food shortage, amid a 'pingdemic' crisis that has seen 1.3 million Covid alerts sent out by the NHS.
But there is dismay that the hard-pressed hospitality sector won't get similar treatment. A rising number of absentees has inflicted damage across restaurants, pubs and tourism.
Steve Gardner-Collins, chairman of Visit Gloucestershire, said: "We can expect similar shortages in service delivery. Colleagues across the county are struggling with staff levels and customers can only expect reduced services if the sector is to be left out of the isolation exception."
Environment secretary, George Eustice, speaking on Sky News today confirmed that the hospitality sector would not be included in the relaxation of rules.
He said: "We need to make sure that we maintain our food supply. We will never take risks with our food supply.
"When it comes to other sectors, yes, of course, the fact they are also carrying high absence levels is causing some stress for them, making it more difficult.
"But you also have to bear in mind why we are doing this.
"We are trying to still dampen the pace and velocity at which this infection is spreading, because we have to keep a very close eye on those hospitalisations."
Under the new guidance, workers in food supply, regardless of vaccination status, will be able to take a daily Covid test instead of isolating. Up to 10,000 workers are likely to qualify.
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: "We welcome the Government's rapid response to this unfolding 'pingdemic', which has impacted shops and distribution centres.
"Retailers are working closely with Government to identify hundreds of key distribution sites that will benefit from the new daily contact testing scheme. It is absolutely vital that Government makes up for lost time and rolls out this new scheme as fast as possible.
"Disruption is limited at the moment, and retailers are monitoring the situation closely. Government will need to continue to listen to the concerns of the retail industry in the coming days and must be prepared to take further action if necessary."
The Government also announced a list of sectors where employers could apply for exemption for vaccinated staff.
These areas are energy, civil nuclear, digital infrastructure, food production and supply, waste, water, veterinary medicines, essential chemicals, essential transport, medicines and medical devices, clinical consumable supplies, emergency services, border control, essential defence outputs, local government.
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