Government plans to double exempt key workers as pingdemic threatens “collapse of the supply chain”

The government is set to hold emergency talks today amid plans to double the number of workers allowed to avoid self-isolation.

Ministers are set to discuss plans to double the number of ‘critical’ workplaces where staff can undergo daily COVID-19 tests in a bid to tackle the ongoing ‘pingdemic’ crisis.

It is understood that 2000 workplaces could now become exempt from self-isolation rules as industry leaders warn the UK supermarkets are “facing a collapse of the supply chain”.

Last week the government announced that 10,000 essential workers would be allowed to forgo self-isolation rules in a bid to remedy staff shortages which are already leading to empty shelves and store closures.

Their efforts were branded “worse than useless” by industry leaders, while the chief executive of the Road Haulage Association Richard Burnett accused the government of “burying their heads in the sand”.

He told BBC Radio 4 that “we already have a shortage of around 100,000 HGV drivers and the pingdemic is just exacerbating the problem.

“In the next two to three weeks we are facing a collapse of the supply chain meaning even bigger gaps on supermarket shelves.

“We already have hauliers unable to move goods on a daily basis and we’re now facing a perfect storm.”

“This is a crisis on a scale we have never seen before in this industry and the Government is burying its head in the sand. It is not recognising the seriousness.”

READ MORE: Retail worst hit by ‘pingdemic’ as nearly 75,000 staff forced to self-isolate this month

Others have criticised the government’s lack of clarity over the scheme, with the British Frozen Food Federation’s chief executive Richard Harrow stating the announcement “shows that yet again government does not understand how connected the food supply chain is.

“Only opening part is unlikely to solve the overall issue. Plus, who is in and who is out, who decides and how do they decide?

“Confusion continues to pervade and I have been advised no list until Monday. This is worse than useless.”

Last week Iceland announced that it had been forced to close a number of stores due to a lack of staff, with some around a quarter of its entire workforce unable to work in some areas.

Retail workers have been harder hit than any other sector by the ‘pingdemic’ crisis seeing nearly 75,000 staff forced to self-isolate this month.

New data from FirstCare, the UK’s largest database of workplace absences, shows that 74,292 staff across the consumer and retail sector are currently self-isolating representing around 2.88 per cent of the entire industry.

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