Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood has called on the Prime Minister to announce a COBRA meeting to deal with the intensifying “Pingdemic” crisis which is plaguing the country’s food supply.
The UK saw over 600,000 alerts being sent out on the test and trace app last week which has forced thousands of retail workers to isolate, leaving retailers facing empty shelves and store closures.
“The urgency of staff shortages now impacting on supermarkets and, by extension, national food distribution, warrants a Cobra meeting today for which the deployment of the army to assist in HGV driver shortfall should be a last-resort option considered,” Ellwood said.
Premier Foods, one of the UK’s largest food suppliers which owns brands including Mr Kipling, Ambrosia, Bird’s Custard, Angel Delight and HomePride, has also called on the government to bring in the armed forces to distribute goods as the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortage continues to significantly disrupt supply chains.
I work in a supermarket. We have empty shelves. Out of a staff of 250 approx we have one person off self isolating. Our problem is a lack of delivery reaching the store
— Trudi (@Trudski2012) July 22, 2021
The shortage in staff in both grocery and delivery sectors is leaving supermarkets up and down the country with empty shelves.
One of the largest food wholesalers in the country, Bidfood UK’s chief executive Andrew Selley has said he had around 100 staff isolating across the company’s 20 depots around the country which has significantly affected deliveries to customers.
Selley has also advised his staff to ignore the “pings” if they receive a negative PCR test result in an interview with the BBC.
However this was condemned by Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary who said to Times Radio: “The rules are very clear on this.
“If people are pinged, they have to self-isolate . . . people should self-isolate if they are pinged, it’s that simple,”
The drastic food shortages has prompted customers to engage in another wave of panic buying to secure essential supplies, frustrating grocery bosses.
The staff shortages have meant that Co-op is hiring 3,000 temporary staff to cover the epidemic which rival Iceland is hiring 2,000.
The British Independent Retailers Association said it was “more than likely” that smaller shops would have to close if staff were told to isolate.