Supermarket shelves will empty again within WEEKS unless ‘pingdemic’ causing staff shortages is tackled, experts warn
- Ministers to hold emergency talks Monday to agree on plans to double number of ping-exempt workplaces
- Drivers of passenger trains are expected to be among the latest workers exempted from quarantine rules
- Reduced timetables are being introduced from today on railways after a spate of last-minute cancellations
- Figures last week showed more than 600,000 people had been pinged by the NHS Covid app in seven days
Supermarket shelves will go empty again in the next two to three weeks unless action to tackle the pingdemic is stepped up, the Government has been warned.
Ministers will hold emergency talks today to hammer out plans to more than double to 2,000 the number of critical workplaces where staff can undergo daily tests to avoid isolating.
Drivers of passenger trains are expected to be among the latest workers exempted from quarantine rules as rail companies begin sweeping cancellations from today. Binmen are also expected to receive assistance.
The Government announced last week that it would set up testing facilities at 500 food distribution sites, 100 transport hubs and 100 emergency services bases.
The Government’s emergency plan to tackle the pingdemic’s impact on the food supply industry was this week branded an ‘absolute disaster’ by industry bosses. (Pictured: A shopper walks past a row of empty shelves in ASDA Cardiff on Friday)
Ministers will hold emergency talks Monday to hammer out plans to more than double to 2,000 the number of critical workplaces where staff can undergo daily tests to avoid isolating. Pictured: Empty soft drinks shelves in Tesco in Cardiff on Friday
Some 200 new test centres are going to be set up throughout the country to try and stem the chaos caused by the pindemic – but industry bosses say it is not enough with only a handful of the sites up and running so far
But last night experts warned the action was not enough and there was criticism that only a handful of the sites are up and running.
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, warned that gaps on supermarket shelves are about to get worse as ministers are ‘burying their heads in the sand’. He said: ‘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.’
Speaking on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme, he added: ‘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.’
Tony Danker, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: ‘Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of businesses have been in touch with us to describe scenarios where the scale of people self-isolating – testing negative by the way but self-isolating – is so big that they are basically bringing core operations to a close.
‘Through the front door we’ve said let’s reopen the economy and through the back door we have closed it down.’
Policing minister Kit Malthouse yesterday apologised for delays at the border after travellers complained about ‘total chaos’ at airports. He suggested some airline staff could be exempted from quarantine, alongside border officials.
It comes after the Government bowed to growing pressure from the industry earlier this week to allow a key-worker exemption for food supply chain workers. Pictured: Empty shelves in Sainsbury’s Cardiff on Friday
There have been a total of 46,563,452 first doses of a vaccine administered and 37,160,659 second doses. Last Sunday 60 new deaths within 28 days of testing positive were recorded, meaning today’s figure of 28 is a drop of more than 50 per cent
Mr Malthouse also told Times Radio he acknowledged the ‘challenge’ officers are facing as Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh said 17 per cent of staff in the capital were off last week.
Reduced timetables are being introduced from today on railways after a spate of last-minute cancellations due to staff self-isolating.
Northern, Avanti West Coast, Great Western Railway and Govia Thameslink are among operators cutting services for up to six weeks.
It comes as a hospital trust took to social media to issue an urgent appeal for nurses to work the night shift. Belfast Health Trust said that Royal Victoria and Mater Hospital were under ‘extreme pressure’, amid a rising number of staff absences due to the pandemic and a surge in coronavirus patients.
Figures last week showed more than 600,000 people had been pinged by the NHS Covid app in seven days.
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