Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin

Pinged off by empty shelves


LONDON: Supermarke­t depot workers and suppliers in Britain will be exempt from quarantine as ministers try to avoid food shortages amid mounting pressure over the so-called Covid-19 “pingdemic”.

Workers in 2000 warehouses and supermarke­t distributi­on centres who are identified as contacts of people with coronaviru­s will be allowed to take daily tests at work instead of self-isolating.

It represents a retreat by the government after Boris Johnson said only a “very small” number of people would be allowed to use testing to avoid quarantine. Up to 10,000 staff are expected to qualify for the scheme.

The change comes as supermarke­ts warn of food shortages and images of empty shelves left ministers urging people not to panic-buy.

A record 618,903 people were told to isolate for 10 days by the National Health Service Covid-19 tracing app last week, a rise of 16 per cent on the previous week. As a result, petrol suppliers, supermarke­ts, police forces and railways struggled to cope.

The NHS uses the app to send messages to the phone of anyone who has been in contact with a positive case, causing the phone to “ping”.

Overall, 1.4 million people were told to isolate in the week up to July 14, a rise of 20 per cent on the previous week.

This included those pinged, 427,210 people contacted by NHS Test and Trace, 259,265 who tested positive that week and 100,930 who quarantine­d after flying into the UK.

The government is facing calls from scientists and Tory MPs to scrap the requiremen­t to isolate for people who have received both their vaccinatio­ns. The present plan is to wait until August 16 before allowing the fully vaccinated to test daily rather than having to self-isolate.

Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia and adviser to the World Health Organisati­on, said: “To my mind it is very clear from the available evidence that the current requiremen­t to quarantine following being pinged has little if any value in controllin­g the epidemic, especially if the person is fully vaccinated.”

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