Retailers facing 30% staff shortages as NHS app ‘pings’ hit record levels

Retailers have warned of severe staff shortages after more than half a million people were ‘pinged’ by the NHS app and forced to self-isolate in a single week.

Asos became the latest of a growing list of retailers to demand the government make changes to its ‘track-and-trace’ system with some businesses facing staff absences of up to 30 per cent.

In the week to July 7 the number of people pinged by the NHS app after coming into close contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus skyrocketed 47 per cent, seeing an unprecedented 520,194 alerts sent to users.

Industry leaders and unions have warned that this was playing “havoc” with retailers who are already facing staff shortages in the wake of the pandemic.

Distribution centres, head offices and retail stores are reportedly suffering from an average staff shortage of 10 per cent.

Asos, Iceland and Sainsbury’s have all warned of growing staff absences due to “a lot of test and trace pinging”.

READ MORE: UK retail recovery is being hampered by staff shortages

The staff shortages are impacting retail supply chains too, adding to the increasingly dire heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortage crisis and leaving many factories at risk of shutting down entirely.

“The reports Unite is receiving from our members and their employers are extremely worrying,” Unite union’s assistant general secretary Steve Turner said.

“It is not an exaggeration to say factories are on the verge of shutting and that at some sites hundreds of staff are off work.”

Turner warned that if no changes are made, users will simply delete the app potentially leading to further spikes in covid cases.

“It is clear that something has to be done in time for July 19, or else people will simply start deleting the app en masse to avoid isolation notices,” he said.

“There will be public health consequences if test and trace is seen as a nuisance rather than an infection control measure.”

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