UK supermarkets, wholesalers and carriers are struggling to ensure a stable supply of food and fuel after an official health app asked hundreds of thousands of workers to self-isolate after contact with an affected person of COVID-19.
Newspapers on Thursday featured photos of empty shelves in supermarkets on Thursday, while shoppers also took to social media to highlight shortages of some products in stores across the country.
The Reuters news agency reported that food items were widely available in stores in the capital, London, although there were shortages of bottled water, soft drinks and salads and meat products. The UK’s second largest supermarket group, Sainsbury’s, said customers would generally be able to find the products they want, but perhaps not all brands.
Responding to reports of empty supermarket shelves in some areas, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told British television channel Sky News that the government was “very concerned about the situation”.
He added that officials were closely monitoring the events.
Availability issues ”
Kwarteng’s comments came after many companies warned the situation was getting serious, with supply chains stammering over the number of lone workers amid the UK’s so-called ‘pingdemia’.
As infection rates rise nationwide, hundreds of thousands have been ‘reported’ by the National Health Service (NHS) app, telling them to stay home for up to 10 days afterward. have been recorded in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
More than half a million people have been asked to self-isolate in the first week of July alone – the highest weekly figure since the app launched in September 2020 – and that number continues to rise . Official data on Thursday showed nearly 620,000 people in England and Wales were asked to self-isolate during the week through July 14, the vast majority being in England.
This came after a meat industry body warned on Wednesday that UK food supply chains were “on the verge of failure”, the COVID-19-related absence exacerbating a severe labor shortage -work.
The Iceland supermarket group has announced that it has closed a number of stores due to a lack of staff.
“We have a structural problem with heavy goods vehicles [heavy goods vehicles] drivers for various reasons, but of course the ‘pingemia’ made the situation worse, ”CEO Richard Walker told UK broadcaster ITV.
“We are starting to see availability issues. “
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to further ease COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in England on Monday and boost the economy of the pandemic-stricken country has been tarnished by the number of people who are now self-isolating .
The app’s alerts, which are advisory but not legally binding, have also caused enormous disruption in the hospitality, manufacturing and media sectors, as well as in the transportation network, schools and the system. UK Health Care Center.
Ministers argued that the system plays an important role in tackling the spread of the virus as the number of COVID-19 cases in the UK increases, with more than 44,000 new infections recorded on Wednesday.
However, in an effort to ease pressure on certain sectors, the government announced Monday that it would allow workers in certain critical positions to continue working despite being “pinged” if they were fully immunized.
Officials said the exemptions would be “reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” with employers having to file claims on behalf of staff members, and no general list of eligible critical workers will be established.
Infections are expected to increase
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the industry lobby group, the British Retail Consortium, called on the government to act quickly.
“Retailers and suppliers, who have played a critical role throughout this pandemic, should be allowed to work provided they are double vaccinated or can test negative for COVID, to ensure that the public’s ability to procuring food and other goods is not disrupted. ,” he said.
While the NHS app’s self-isolation pings are only advisory, anyone in England who is contacted directly by their Test and Trace service must legally self-isolate for 10 days.
The UK has the seventh highest death toll from COVID-19 in the world, and the rate of new cases is set to rise sharply following the recent lifting of restrictions in England, which Johnson called ‘freedom day’ .
But a rapid vaccination program that has seen 87 percent of adults receive at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 68 percent fully vaccinated to date appears to have weakened the link between infections and deaths.
Daily deaths have remained low in recent weeks compared to previous waves of the pandemic.