UK government said to be monitoring the situation as ‘pingdemic’ cause supermarket shelves to empty

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng urged workers not to delete the test and trace app from their phones to avoid being pinged

The UK government has said it is concerned about how the NHS Covid-19 app is causing a pingdemic as rising coronavirus cases combine with Brexit effects to leave supermarket shelves bare and some shops and petrol stations shuttered.

In the past week a new record higher 607,486 alerts were ‘pinged’ to workers across industries by the government app, telling them to self-isolate for 10 days, while numbers of available delivery lorry drivers and workers across many industries are down post-Brexit.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government was “very concerned about the situation” when asked about empty shelves in some supermarkets. “We’re monitoring the situation,” he added.

Yesterday, the British meat industry body said food supply chains are “right on the edge of failing”, with some meat factories seeing between 5% and 10% of their workforce advised to self-isolate by the app, on top of job vacancy levels at 10% and 16% even before the Covid ping effect is factored-in – which is likely to be an effect of Brexit.

Tesco PLC (LSE:TSCO) said this week that a shortage of HGV drivers has led to 48 tonnes of food being wasted per week, with many European drivers affected by Brexit rules, coronavirus lockdowns and now by rising cases of the Delta variant.

However, Kwarteng urged workers not to delete the test and trace app from their phones to avoid being pinged.

He said his department is going to announce a list of exempt workers from certain industries “very soon”.

“The list of exemptions will be quite narrow because obviously you have to draw the line somewhere and what we want to do is keep people safe and that is why we have the self-isolation policy in the first place,” he told Sky News.

One in 10 people have deleted the NHS app and almost a third of people have never installed it, a YouGov poll found this week.

Companies to have closed shops, pubs and other outlets include grocery chain Iceland, pub operator Greene King (LSE:GNK), sandwich maker Pret a Manger, gym operator Pure Gym, while BP has shut some petrol stations due to supply issues and Marks and Spencer Group PLC (LON:MKS) has warned that it may have to reduce store opening hours.

The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) Andrew Opie said: “The ongoing pingdemic is putting increasing pressure on retailers’ ability to maintain opening hours and keep shelves stocked.

“Government needs to act fast. Retail workers and suppliers, who have played a vital role throughout this pandemic, should be allowed to work provided they are double vaccinated or can show a negative Covid test, to ensure there is no disruption to the public’s ability to get food and other goods.

“With community cases soaring, the number of healthy retail staff having to self-isolate is rising fast, disrupting retail operations.”

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