Food supply staff exempt from COVID quarantine

9:56pm 5th August 2021

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Supermarket depot workers and suppliers will be exempt from quarantine regardless of their vaccination status as ministers try to avoid food shortages amid mounting pressure over the COVID-19 'pingdemic,'The Times reports today.

Workers in 2,000 warehouses and supermarket distribution centres who are identified as contacts of people with coronavirus will be allowed to take daily tests at work instead of self-isolating.

The newspaper said it represents a retreat by the government after Boris Johnson said that only a “very small” number of people would be allowed to use testing to avoid quarantine. Up to 10,000 staff are expected to qualify for the scheme.

The change comes after supermarkets warning about food shortages and images of empty shelves left minsiers urging people not to panic-buy, it added.

Logistics 'key' industry

Earlier this week, industry body, Logistics UK, highlighted “ongoing issues” caused by contacts from the NHS COVID-19 app, with its Policy Director,  Elizabeth de Jong, commenting:

“Logistics as a sector is flexible and adaptable and has maintained supplies of everything UK plc needs throughout the pandemic. Many of our workers operate in isolation and the risk of infection passing between them is very low - however, for those in warehouses and distribution centres, the risk is higher.

“Having deemed logistics a  'key' industry at the start of the pandemic, the government should be maintaining this designation and providing a blanket exemption for the industry.  Those with two vaccinations and recording negative test results should be allowed to continue to work. This will provide resilience for the UK’s supply chain and prevent unnecessary administration time being wasted.”

She added: “The proposed process to apply for exemption from isolation, following notifications from the NHS app, appears time consuming, and will not help logistics businesses which are already working at full stretch to keep the country supplied with all that it needs. We are talking to government about streamlining this process right now to protect the integrity of the supply chain.”

'Short-term solution'

Yesterday, EV Cargo, a global, technology-enabled logistics provider, with 175 operating centres in the UK, urged the government to do more to deliver a short-term solution to address the country’s current supply chain challenges.

“The ongoing and well-documented driver shortage is being compounded by manufacturing, retail and supply chain workers having to undertake necessary COVID-19 ‘pingdemic’ self-isolations.

So far, Government measures to alleviate the problem include extending drivers’ hours and increasing capacity at DVSA test sites for new recruits acquiring their HGV licences, it said in a statement.

However, the company said it believed this will not deliver the short-term solution required and called for supply chain workers to be recognised as both skilled and essential in keeping goods flowing to retailers across the nation.

Michael Conroy, EV Cargo UK chief executive, commented: “The current rules around self-isolation are due to change on 16 August, but we are calling on the government to step in now and recognise logistics workers as being critical to maintaining the UK’s supply chains.

“A record number of more than 600,000 people have been told to self-isolate last week and that’s looking set to increase again, but we believe that if logistics workers have had both doses of the vaccine and have tested negative, they should be exempt.

“The Government should also add HGV drivers to the post-Brexit skills shortage occupation list, allowing EU drivers to work in the UK and add some much-needed driving capacity. Drivers need to obtain two licences and complete annual professional development training to undertake work, so the profession is clearly highly-skilled.

“These are two short-term measures which we believe would have a significant impact and help alleviate the immediate challenges. The issue is simple supply and demand, the demand within the UK supply chain is high and the pool of available UK drivers needs both protected and bolstered immediately.”

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