Retail workers will find out “today” if they can avoid self-isolation as empty shelves spread across UK

Industry

Retail workers will find out later today if they will be able to apply for exemption from self-isolation as the government prepares to release an updated list of ‘critical’ sectors.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told BBC Radio 4 this morning that the government is planning to release a list of exempt critical workers “today”.

“We’re going to be publishing guidance today on who might be exempt,” he said.

“We’re looking at different sectors and we will be publishing today the sectors that will be affected.”

Businesses within industries on the list will be able to apply to the government for exemption from self-isolation rules, which require anyone who is ‘pinged’ by the NHS app to isolate for 10 days.

Unlike key workers who were exempt from previous lockdowns, the list of exemptions is expected to be far stricter, with Kwarteng telling Sky News: “The list of exemptions will be quite narrow because, obviously, you have to draw the line somewhere”.

READ MORE: What should I do if I was ‘pinged’ and can’t go to work?

The government is coming under increasing pressure to amend the self-isolation policy as the so-called “pingdemic” staff shortage crisis is increasingly leading to the closure of businesses and gaps in shelves at many of the UK’s largest supermarkets.

This morning Iceland’s chief executive Richard Walker confirmed that the number of people having to isolate was “growing about 50 per week on week, and that was really alarming”.

Iceland announced plans to hire 2000 temporary staff as it scrambled to keep stores open and stocked, with around four per cent of its 30,000 workforce already in self-isolation or off sick.

In response to the growing crisis, people have started simply deleting the app or turning of their GPS tracking.

A recently YouGov poll suggested that around 10 per cent of people had now deleted the app.

Professor Tim Spector, who helped develop the ZOE Covid symptoms study, said that the app was no longer “that useful… in the current state of the pandemic”.

However, he added that employers should still tell staff to stay at home if the have cold-like symptoms.

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