LONDON (AP) – In scenes reminiscent of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, supermarket shelves across England appeared a little empty on Thursday.
This time it has nothing to do with consumer storage before the lockdown. It all had to do with the staff, including stackers and delivery drivers, getting ‘pinched’ on their phones to self-isolate due to contact with coronavirus cases.
Struggling with staff shortages amid the so-called ‘pingdemia’, many companies, such as the supermarket chain Iceland, had to close some stores – something they did not have to do in the thick of the storm. three closures from England during the pandemic.
Hundreds of thousands of people – including Prime Minister Boris Johnson – must now self-isolate for 10 days after being told by the National Health Service’s extremely expensive testing and tracing app that they have come into close contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus.
The British Retail Consortium wants the government to “act quickly” and exempt fully vaccinated workers, or those who test negative for the virus, from the requirements of a “ping”. Changes are expected later, but they will not be substantial.
Notification of the app is advisory and anyone “pinged” by the app is not legally required to self-isolate, but Johnson’s government insisted people follow the rules.
But many individuals and businesses are starting to take matters into their own hands. There is growing evidence that people remove the app or at least turn off Bluetooth when visiting areas, such as hospitals or restaurants, where they could potentially be near a person. likely to have COVID-19.
The chief executive of Bidfood, a food distribution company, has told its delivery drivers to take tests and not to quarantine themselves.
“We know they are essential workers in the food supply chain, so if people are demonstrably positive or contacted by Test and Trace, they will need to self-isolate,” said the CEO of Bidfood, Andrew Selley, on BBC Radio.
He said staff interviewed by the app should take the baseline PCR test. If they test negative, they must return to work where another regimen of daily testing is implemented by the company.
The government switches to a different system on August 16, which means people with a double bite will be exempt from self-isolation rules. The change comes nearly a month after most of the coronavirus legal rules were lifted in England. The other nations of the United Kingdom – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are more cautious in lifting the restrictions.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the date “seems far away” and warned stores were closing, hours were reduced and consumers had less choice.
“I think the most important thing for the government to do is recognize that the current situation is untenable,” she told the BBC.
Over 26 million people have downloaded the app in England and Wales. With daily infections rising sharply and expected to at least double from current rates of 100,000 this summer, the number of people polled by the app will inevitably increase, reaching over one million per week.
This will cause untold disruption to businesses trying to recover after 16 months of forced foreclosure. In addition to the problems in supermarkets, the pingaemia has caused a reduction in production in factories and led to transport chaos, as illustrated by the closure of the London Underground metro line on Saturday.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage on: