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UK food sector workers exempt from self-isolation rules

UK food sector workers exempt from self-isolation rules

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LONDON: As staff shortages led to empty supermarket shelves, thousands of UK food sector workers will be exempt from self-isolation if they come into contact with a Covid-19 case, reports AFP.

As coronavirus cases once again soar in the UK, many sectors are complaining of a "pingdemic" -- a reference to notifications from the phone app telling users they have come into contact with an infected person and need to self-isolate.

The rules have forced swathes of staff to stay home, causing major disruptions in key sectors.

More than 10,000 workers in several sectors, including supermarket depots, dairy factories and bread manufacturing sites will now be exempt from rules requiring self-isolation, Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News.

"We need to make sure that we maintain our food supply," Eustice said.

British newspapers splashed photographs of empty supermarket shelves on their front pages on Thursday as fears rose of delays in the food supply chain. The government opted to exempt food sector workers after seeing rising absence rates this week, the minister said.

Workers will automatically be allowed to keep working at 500 key sites if they are "pinged" by the app. They will be required to take daily tests at their workplace.

The government said in a statement late Thursday that the measures were set to be rolled out from this week. The UK has seen a surge in cases fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant in recent weeks but opted to lift most virus restrictions in England on Monday.

On Saturday, daily cases hit 54,000, the highest since January.

The requirement to self-isolate for 10 days after being notified of contact with a virus case is expected to remain in place at least until August 16.