Iceland becomes first UK supermarket to shut stores amid ‘pingdemic’ crisis

Iceland says it has become the first UK supermarket to be forced to close stores because of the so called ‘pingdemic’ staff shortage crisis.

Iceland has revealed that over 1000 of its staff have been told to self-isolate after being pinged by the NHS track-and-trace app for coming into close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

According to the BBC, Iceland’s chief executive Richard Walker said around four per cent of the company’s 30,000-strong workforce was now absent, leaving the frozen food giant with no choice but to close a number of stores and reduce opening hours in others.

“The concern is that as this thing rises exponentially as we’ve just been hearing. It could get a lot worse a lot quicker,” he told the BBC.

READ MORE: Food shortages and store closures looming as NHS app causes “crippling” staff shortages

“In fact, we’ve just announced employing an additional 2,000 people on top of that to give us a deeper pool of labour, because so many people are now getting pinged.

“The great irony is that we’re now all getting vaccinated.”

It comes after Marks & Spencer’s chief executive and other major UK supermarkets warned over the weekend that the current spike in staff self-isolating could soon lead to food shortages and more store closures.

To avoid “crippling staff shortages”, the Confederation of British Industry has called for new rules to be put in place preventing those who are double jabbed from being forced to self-isolate, and allowing those who receive a negative lateral-flow test result to end isolation early.

New government figures suggest that 10 million people are now using the NHS app, seeing 6 million new users join since the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine status functionality in May.

However, as the UK emerges from lockdown, the number of people being told to self-isolate has hit record levels, topping 500,000 last week.

While this is causing “crippling” disruption for retailers, other industries including hospitality, transport and logistics are being severely impacted by the crisis.

Pub chain giant Greene King also revealed today that it has been forced to shut 33 pubs over the past week due to staff shortages.

Over the weekend London’s Metropolitan, District and Piccadilly underground lines were all impacted by driver shortages after a number of staff were pinged.

The staff shortages are impacting 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.

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

“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.”

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