Pingdemic ‘will leave supermarket shelves empty again in WEEKS’ unless staff crisis is solved, Government warned

SUPERMARKET shelves could be left empty again in weeks unless the staff crisis created by the so-called pingdemic is solved, the Government has been warned.

More than 600,000 Brits had to self-isolate after being “pinged” by the NHS Covid-19 app in just one week, leading to food shortages in shops as well as disruption to transport services.

A shopper near empty fruit and vegetables shelves in an Asda store in Cardiff5

A shopper near empty fruit and vegetables shelves in an Asda store in CardiffCredit: Getty
Supermarket shelves could be empty again in weeks due to the pingdemic5

Supermarket shelves could be empty again in weeks due to the pingdemicCredit: LNP

Last week, the Government announced that staff in critical sectors – including medicine, emergency services and border control – can dodge 10 days quarantine if their bosses get permission.

Alternatively, they will be able to take daily tests, which would allow them to continue working without the need of being at home.

Today, ministers will meet to discuss the other workplaces where people will be able to avoid isolating if they get a notification from the Covid app.

But Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said there was already a shortage of HGV drivers – and this has been made worse by the pingdemic.

This is a crisis on a scale we have never seen before in this industry

Richard Burnett

Speaking on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme, he said: “In the next two to three weeks we are facing a collapse of the supply chain meaning even bigger gaps on supermarket shelves.

“We already have hauliers unable to move goods on a daily basis and we’re now facing a perfect storm.”

He added: “This is a crisis on a scale we have never seen before in this industry and the Government is burying its head in the sand. It is not recognising the seriousness.”

Tony Danker, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, told LBC that businesses have been in touch, claiming they are being forced to stop their work due to staff self-isolating.

🔵 Read ourcoronavirus live blog for the latest updates

He said: “The irony of all of this is that the Government said they were reopening the economy but the pingdemic is effectively closing it down.

“There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of businesses have been in touch with us to describe scenarios where the scale of people self-isolating, testing negative by the way but self-isolating, is so big that they are basically bringing core operations to a close.”

Mr Danker called for regular testing to immediately replace quarantine for workers who have received both doses of a Covid-19 jab.

It comes as Iceland said it has closed “a number of stores” with 1,000 workers – four per cent of its workforce – forced to self-isolate after being pinged.

The supermarket chain’s boss Richard Walker said he had hired 2,000 temporary workers to cover absences caused by the pingdemic.

Supermarket shelves have suffered shortages of products as staff had to self-isolate5

Supermarket shelves have suffered shortages of products as staff had to self-isolateCredit: Bav Media
The British Retail Consortium has asked the Government to change self-isolation guidance for workers5

The British Retail Consortium has asked the Government to change self-isolation guidance for workersCredit: Bav Media

He called for “urgent clarity” from the government on exempting retail workers and HGV drivers from self-isolating if pinged.

BP temporarily closed some petrol stations due to fuel supply problems, with M&S warning 20 per cent of its staff could be self-isolating by next month.

Pub chain Wetherspoons also warned hundreds of staff member were forced to take days off due to the pingdemic.

The British Meat Processors Association said production lines started to fail due to the numbers self-isolating.

Chief executive Nick Allen said: “There’s an air of despondency creeping through the industry. Until now we’ve managed to keep the supply chain running but there’s a sense of, ‘We’re starting to fail’.

“Morale isn’t helped by these confusing messages from government.” He added of stalling production lines: “We’re starting to see that at retail level and in restaurants — everyone is struggling to get things out really.”

Last week, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitted the government was “very concerned” by reports of food shortages on shelves.

Ministers then released a list of workers exempt from self-isolation rules.

Further details on other sectors that may be exempt from self-isolation rules will be released after the Government’s meeting on Monday.

Kwasi Kwarteng admitted the government was 'very concerned' by reports of food shortages5

Kwasi Kwarteng admitted the government was ‘very concerned’ by reports of food shortagesCredit: Getty
George Eustice says the pingdemic will effect travel and food infrastructure

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