Limited businesses can apply for exemption to self-isolation

The government will allow important parts of critical industries to carry out daily testing instead of requiring staff to self-isolate to try and reduce the impact of the ‘pingdemic’

Workers from 16 key sectors including health, transport, and energy will not have to isolate after being pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app, as it was revealed that more than 600,000 people in England and Wales were sent self-isolation alerts between 8 and 15 July.

The alerts have had a severe impact on how the country runs as people have not been able to go to work, which has affected many industries particularly supermarkets which are struggling to refill shelves.

Announced on Thursday, the pilot testing programme will apply to certain workers in the food industry, utilities, border staff, and the NHS, but there is no blanket exemption for sectors, and retail staff in supermarkets will not qualify.

The prime minister’s spokesperson stated that the exemption would be determined case by case, with employers having to apply to the relevant government department to see if their workers can continue to come into work after they are identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

The new daily contact testing measures will begin at 15 supermarket depots, followed by 150 depots next week. The new rules mean that 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 for Covid-19, whether or not they are vaccinated.

Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the British Chambers Commerce, said: ‘While the announcement of a process which exempts select critical workers from self-isolation in England will be a relief to some businesses, it will leave many more still facing critical staff shortages and lost revenue as the number of people being asked to isolate remains high.

‘Nearly half of the businesses we surveyed this week have had staff either off sick with Covid-19 or self-isolating in the past two weeks. Businesses want to play their part in stopping the spread of the virus while at the same time striving to revive their business after 16 months of disruption and closures.’

Boris Johnson announced on Monday that critical workers, who have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks, will be able to leave their isolation to travel to work and do their jobs but must remain at home in isolation otherwise.


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