Workers in 16 key services, including health, transport and energy, will not have to self-isolate after being interviewed by the NHS Covid app, as it has been revealed that more than 600,000 people in England and Wales received self-isolation alerts last week.
The round of changes, after days of frantic discussions with industry executives, came amid an open revolt by Tories against the so-called “pingdemia” with the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt warning government he faces a crisis of public confidence in the system.
Downing Street said companies wishing to take advantage of exemptions for essential workers should apply directly to the relevant department in Whitehall which covers them for permission to return staff to work. The policy will only apply to workers appointed to approved workplaces who are fully vaccinated.
The guide lists 16 sectors: energy, civil nuclear, digital infrastructure, food production and supply, waste, water, veterinary drugs, essential chemicals, essential transport, drugs, medical devices, clinical consumables, emergency services, border control, essential defense and local government.
But he adds that “in certain exceptional cases” there may be critical roles in other sectors which could be agreed on a case-by-case basis. Separate arrangements are in place for health and primary care staff.
The move comes after it was announced that a record 618,903 people in England and Wales received self-isolation alerts last week, and amid images of empty supermarket shelves caused by staff shortages and delivery delays spread across the UK.
With reports of people dropping the NHS Covid app en masse to avoid alerting, Hunt said it was time to overhaul the system for everyone, saying ministers should “remove the requirement immediately 10-day isolation for people who have been double-struck in favor of having to self-isolate until they have taken a negative PCR test… Otherwise we risk losing social consent for this very, very weapon. important against the virus. The requirement will be removed for all double-bitten and under-18s on August 16.
Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Tory backbenchers, supported an immediate overhaul. “The danger is that a lot of people will remove or stop listening to the app, and then when we get to August 16, they won’t get any advice to take a PCR test, and we will actually have made ourselves less sure. . ,” he said.
Guidelines for exempt services released by the government on Thursday night said not all workers would be approved, even if they belonged to a relevant industry, in a relatively narrow list of exemptions designed to target the most pressing issues posed by crisis.
He said an exception may be suitable in critical roles such as rail signaling, but was less likely to be suitable for individual train drivers.
“This is to prove that this will have a major impact on the delivery of essential services,” said a source from Whitehall. “There will be places where it applies differently to one person and not to another.”
Once approved, workers contacted by test and trace or the NHS app would be exempt from isolation if they have been doubly vaccinated – although they need a negative PCR test and must perform daily lateral flow testing during 10 days.
Along with providers of health and medical care, essential transport and the energy industry, services such as border control, telecommunications and emergency services will also be able to request exemptions. Some food production and supply roles are eligible, as well as some positions in the Ministry of Defense and local government.
The government had previously said there would be no list of critical workers exempted from the isolation rules, while industry executives were told any changes would only be of limited scope – sparking frustration from business leaders as the situation worsened rapidly.
The chief executive of the economic lobby group CBI, Tony Danker, warned that businesses across Britain risked “shutting down” without a quick change of direction from ministers.
“The current approach to self-isolation shuts down the economy rather than opening it up,” he said.
On Thursday, the cooperative said it was hiring 3,000 temporary workers to help cover absences at its grocery stores and warehouses caused by the increase in Covid cases, while the coffee shop chain Pret a Manger said it was to close 17 outlets temporarily and Milk & More’s home service admitted that some customers had missed deliveries.
The cooperative said it was hiring more workers because it was experiencing ‘uneven disruption’ caused in part by the NHS enforcement.
A spokesperson for the cooperative said: “We are sorry to run out of some products. Like many retailers, we are affected by uneven disruption to our deliveries and in-store operations, but we are working closely with our suppliers to restock quickly. “
Milk & More said it was able to make 95% of its deliveries on time, but admitted “in very few areas unfortunately some customers have experienced late or missed deliveries”.
A spokesperson said: “This is due to a combination of factors, including a shortage of drivers (like many other companies, we struggle to recruit staff), combined with a high number of our colleagues in front of us. isolate because of the track and trace.
Pret declined to comment on the temporary store closures, but it is understood they are linked to staff shortages linked to NHS notifications.
In a bid to allay concerns and put the government back in the spotlight after images of empty supermarket shelves were released, Environment Secretary George Eustice on Thursday evening organized an organized appeal to rushing with retail bosses to explain how ministers would react to staff. shortages.
It comes as business groups push behind the scenes for new measures, convinced that a narrowly defined list of exempt professions would not go far enough to address widespread disruption in the economy.
Urging the government to go further, representatives of the UK’s biggest business lobby groups have warned ministers they should move the date forward to August 16.
Ministers had been reluctant to act despite the lifting of most pandemic restrictions on Monday, insisting it took time before abandoning the self-isolation rule as coronavirus infections soar. The government had been warned that lifting the requirement on July 19 would result in cases up to 25% higher than waiting another four weeks to do so.
Union leaders said some employers have started cutting back on staff shortages, including by rolling back workplace protections, such as improved cleaning measures, as a direct result of mixed messages from the government.
Matt Draper, national manager of drivers and warehouse workers for union Unite, said ministers urgently need to ensure workers are properly paid to self-isolate if they get cracked by the NHS Covid app and declared the rules forcing the compulsory wearing of masks on public transport, in shops and in reception areas to be reinstated.
“Allowing frontline workers such as truck drivers not to self-isolate if questioned may alleviate short-term supply problems for supermarkets, but it will do nothing to reduce infection rates.” , did he declare.
Limited number of critical workers allowed to avoid self-isolation | Coronavirus
Source link Limited number of critical workers allowed to avoid self-isolation | Coronavirus