UK facing food shortages as ‘pingdemic’ causes staff absences

The sight of empty store shelves in March 2020 was a time of pandemic hitting homes for many – but food chain disruption remains a risk (Image: NurPhoto/REX/Shutters)

The UK food supply chain could be disrupted as key employees are being tracked by the NHS Test and Trace App.

Leaders in several industries are warning of staff shortages and it may not be long until the effects start to be seen on supermarket shelves, an industry leader has warned.

As Covid-19 infections increase, the number of people being asked to self-isolate because they have been in close contact with a confirmed case is growing.

The number contacted via the app crossed 500,000 for the first time this week and millions are expected to do so this summer, a phenomenon dubbed ‘pingdemic’.

Companies are said to be experiencing staff shortages of up to 20 per cent, and those with bickering will not be exempt from quarantine requirements until August 16.

Now the chief executive of Great Britain’s Ports Group has warned the trend poses ‘the most significant threat to the resilience of ports we have ever seen’.

Tim Morris says walkie talkie said: ‘If the current trajectory of absenteeism continues without the government taking any action, there is a risk of disruption to critical supply chains, including food.’

Supermarkets have remained well stocked through most of the pandemic but ports are facing the worst staff shortages (Image: Reuters)

In a separate statement, he told Press Association news agencies the Press Association news agency ports were seeing a ‘surge in absenteeism’.

He added: ‘In many cases this is the worst absence situation the ports have experienced during the entire pandemic.

‘Ports have done a great job of opening up as gateways to 95 per cent of UK trade during the pandemic, but we cannot completely isolate ourselves from broader trends in the population.’

The meat industry is also taking a hit, with some companies reporting that up to a tenth of their workforce is said to stay at some.

Meat producers also warn that self-isolation is increasing existing staff shortages (Image: AFP)

A spokesman for the UK Meat Processors Association said the inspection and traceability requirements were ‘on top of the desperate labor shortage the industry is suffering from’.

They called on the government to allow businesses to ‘temporarily fill these growing vacancies with foreign workers’ and added: ‘If the UK workforce situation deteriorates further, companies will will be forced to initiate the complete shutdown of production lines.’

The auto industry is also struggling: up to 900 Nissan employees are said to have been forced to self-isolate this week, and a spokesperson for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has warned that the company is at a ‘critical moment’. important’ and may have to cut production in half.

Frances O’Grady, secretary general of the TUC, has called on ministers to rethink the removal of the law on wearing face masks in shops and on public transport to prevent Covid-19 ‘ripping places’ work’ and cause more absenteeism.

Community secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed the government will lay out plans ‘in the coming weeks’ for a more proportionate approach to self-isolation.

The government has so far resisted calls to make the app less sensitive and a spokesman for Downing Street pushed back a report in the Telegraph that people were being pinged ‘through brick walls’ because a neighbor tested positive.

Friday’s figures from the Ministry of Health shows that there are 51,870 new cases of Covid – up from 48,553 on Thursday and the highest daily total since January 15.

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UK facing food shortages as ‘pingdemic’ forces millions into self-isolation


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