After the official health app told hundreds of thousands of workers to self-isolate after contact with COVID-19 infected people, UK supermarkets, wholesalers and transporters are working hard to ensure a stable supply of food and fuel.
On Thursday, newspapers published pictures of empty supermarket shelves on the front page, and shoppers highlighted the shortage of certain products in stores across the country on social media.
Reuters reported that despite the shortage of bottled water, soft drinks, and some salads and meat products, the shops in the capital London are full of food.
Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second-largest supermarket group, said that customers can usually find the products they want, but it may not be every brand.
In response to reports of vacant supermarket shelves in some areas, the Secretary of Commerce Kwasi Kwarteng told the BBC Sky News that the government is “very concerned about this situation.”
He added that officials are closely monitoring the incident.
Kwarteng’s comments were issued after many companies warned that the situation became serious. Due to the so-called “epidemic” in the UK, a large number of workers were quarantined and the supply chain stagnated.
As infection rates across the country have soared, hundreds of thousands of people have been “tested” by the National Health Service (NHS) app, telling them to stay home for up to 10 days after being in close contact with tested people to be positive for the coronavirus.
In the first week of July alone, more than 500,000 people were told to self-quarantine—the highest weekly number since the app’s launch in September 2020—and this number continues to rise.
Official data on Thursday showed that in the week ending July 14, nearly 620,000 people in England and Wales were told to quarantine, most of whom were in England.
Earlier, a meat industry agency warned on Wednesday that the UK’s food supply chain was “on the verge of failure” and that COVID-19-related absenteeism had exacerbated severe labor shortages.
The supermarket group Iceland also announced that it had closed many stores due to a shortage of employees.
“Our HGV has structural issues [heavy goods vehicles] Drivers for a variety of different reasons, but of course,’pingdemic’ makes the situation worse,” Managing Director Richard Walker told the BBC ITV.
“We are starting to see some usability issues.”
Reopening is damaged by’pingdemic’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to further relax England’s lockdown on COVID-19 on Monday and boost the country’s pandemic-hit economy has been compromised by the number of people who are now in self-isolation.
The app’s alerts are advisory, but not legally binding, and have caused tremendous damage to the hotel, manufacturing and media industries, as well as the UK’s transportation network, schools, and healthcare system.
Ministers believe that with the surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the UK, the system plays an important role in curbing the spread of the virus, with more than 44,000 new infections recorded on Wednesday.
However, in order to ease the pressure on some industries, the government announced on Monday that if they are fully vaccinated, workers in certain key roles will be allowed to continue working, even though they will be “pinged.”
Officials said that the exemption will be “considered on a case-by-case basis,” and employers must submit applications on behalf of workers and will not develop a general list of eligible key workers.
The number of infections is expected to surge
Andrew Oppi, the food and sustainability director of the industry lobby group British Retail Alliance, called on the government to act quickly.
“Retail industry workers and suppliers have played a vital role in this pandemic. As long as they have received dual vaccines or tested negative for COVID, they should be allowed to work to ensure that the public’s ability to access food and other goods is not sufficient. Will be disturbed,” he said.
Although the self-isolation ping of the NHS app is only advisory, in England, anyone directly contacted by its testing and tracking service must be legally quarantined for 10 days.
The number of COVID-19 deaths in the UK ranks seventh in the world, and after the UK recently lifted restrictions, the incidence of new cases is expected to rise sharply, which Johnson characterized as “Freedom Day.”
However, a rapid vaccination program has allowed 87% of adults to receive at least one dose of the vaccine, and so far more than 68% of adults have been fully vaccinated, which seems to weaken the link between infection and death.
Compared with the early wave of the pandemic, the daily death toll in recent weeks has remained low.