England quarantine rules being relaxed to avoid shortages

Jul 22, 2021, 11:44 PM | Updated: Jul 23, 2021, 9:17 am

LONDON (AP) — The British government has sought to ease food supply pressures in England by exempting more than 10,000 workers from quarantine rules that led to staff shortages and empty shelves and fears of panic-buying.

However, it has come under criticism Friday for being too hasty in lifting coronavirus restrictions in England and for not doing more to help other crucial sectors, such as transport, the emergency services and energy industry.

In an announcement late Thursday following mounting pressure from increasingly vexed retailers, it outlined plans for daily COVID-19 testing of critical food industry workers that will effectively allow those who test negative to continue working even if they have been notified on their phones to self-isolate due to contact with someone with the virus.

The move, along with a limited relaxation of self-isolation rules for “critical workers” in other key sectors and vital public services came amid growing concerns within government of the impact of the so-called ‘pingdemic’ on many key sectors of the British economy.

Many critics say the National Health Service’s app, which has been download by more than 26 million people in England and Wales, or around half the adult population, since it launched last September, has being unfairly singled out. They say it’s a distraction from the fact that the U.K. is in the midst of a third surge of the pandemic as a result of the spread of the more contagious delta variant and the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

The app, they say, is just doing its job and self-isolation remains a key weapon in the fight against the virus.

With daily infections predicted by the government to at least double to 100,000 this summer, the number of people being pinged will inevitably grow, potentially to more than 1 million a week.

“The best way to bring down the number of pings would be to bring down the number of infections and the idea that this is a problem with a faulty app which just needs to be binned is nonsense,” said Dr. Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading.

Still, many individuals and firms have taken matters in their own hands. There’s growing evidence pointing to people deleting the app, turning off Bluetooth when they go into areas, such as hospitals, where they could potentially come into close proximity with someone who may have COVID-19, or turning off the contact tracing function.

Amid the resurgence of the virus across the U.K., hundreds of thousands of people, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are self-isolating for 10 days after being advised by the app that they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

It was primarily concerns over food supplies that drove the government’s change in approach as more and more workers, including crucial delivery drivers, were having to self-isolate, leading to scenes of empty supermarket shelves and fears of panic-buying by anxious consumers.

The government said it has identified priority locations, including the largest supermarket distribution centers, where testing will begin this week. The program will be expanded to as many as 500 sites next week, encompassing providers of staple foods such as bread and dairy products.

“All of the people working in those key strategic sites, distribution depots and those manufacturing facilities will be able to use this scheme, and probably well over 10,000 people,” Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News on Friday.

The new policy was welcomed by retailers, but many said the government should consider bringing forward its previously announced plan to change the self-isolation rules on Aug. 16 when double-jabbed individuals will be exempt from the self-isolation rules.

“It is absolutely vital that government makes up for lost time and rolls out this new scheme as fast as possible,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium.

Alongside the measures to protect food supplies, the government published guidance on Thursday night setting out limited exemptions for fully-vaccinated critical workers from 16 sectors if their inability to work would have a “major detrimental impact” or risk national security. However, the guidance has already led to some confusion within the sectors involved.

Under the new guidance, fully vaccinated employees providing what are deemed critical services would be able to keep working and avoid self-isolation if they have been named on a list kept updated by officials.

The government said the policy is not a “blanket exemption” for all employees in a sector — for instance, while railway signal operators on whom the network depends may be given an exemption, individual train drivers are unlikely to be.

Unions attacked the government for a “mess” of their own making by failing to consult in advance of the lifting of all lockdown restrictions in England.

“The government needs to be clear about who it classes as critical workers,” Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the umbrella Trades Union Congress. “The current proposals don’t reflect the real world because businesses don’t exist in isolation — they are part of complex supply chains.”


Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:



Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Japanese fashion designer Hanae Mori, center, is applauded by models after the presentation ...
Associated Press

Hanae Mori, designer for films, empress, dies, reports say

TOKYO (AP) — Designer Hanae Mori, known for her elegant signature butterfly motifs, numerous cinema fashions and the wedding gown of a future Japanese empress, has died, local media reported Thursday. She was 96. Mori symbolized the rise of Japan as a modern, fashionable nation and the rise of the working woman. The media reports […]
19 hours ago
Former Vice President Mike Pence gestures during the "Politics and Eggs" breakfast gathering, Wedne...
Associated Press

Pence tells GOP to stop lashing out at FBI over Trump search

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday implored fellow Republicans to stop lashing out at the FBI over the search of Donald Trump’s Florida home and denounced calls by some of the former president’s allies to defund the FBI, saying that was “just as wrong” as a push by Democratic activists […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Man who broke into Wisconsin home wanted a bath

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (AP) — A Minnesota man who allegedly broke into an occupied Wisconsin home last week and locked himself in a bathroom never had a chance to come clean. He was getting ready to take a bath when authorities arrived. Authorities say the 29-year-old St. Paul, Minnesota man was filling up the tub […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Allen Weisselberg, right, stands behind then President-elect Donald Trump during a news conf...
Associated Press

Trump Org. CFO to plead guilty, testify against company

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s chief financial officer is expected to plead guilty to tax violations Thursday in a deal that would require him to testify about illicit business practices at the former president’s company, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Allen Weisselberg is charged with taking more than $1.7 […]
19 hours ago
FILE - This Aug. 8, 2022, still image taken from officer video provided by the Albuquerque Police D...
Associated Press

Suspect in New Mexico Muslim killings detained pending trial

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Afghan refugee charged in the shooting deaths of two Muslim men and suspected in the killing of two others was ordered held without bond pending trial as prosecutors argued Wednesday that he was a danger to his own family and the greater community. Prosecutors during a detention hearing pointed to […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Anne Heche arrives at the premiere of "The Tender Bar" at the TCL Chinese Theatre, on Dec. 1...
Associated Press

Anne Heche’s death ruled accidental after fiery car crash

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actor Anne Heche died from inhalation injury and burns after her fiery car crash and the death was ruled an accident, according to coroner’s results released Wednesday. Heche, 53, also had a fractured sternum caused by “blunt trauma,” according to information on the website of the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner. […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
England quarantine rules being relaxed to avoid shortages