We only have half a picture of food industry exemptions
The announcement by George Eustice last night that some workers in the food supply chain will be exempt from self-isolating if they’re ‘pinged’ by the NHS App will provide some relief to the industry. However, we’re still missing key details and clear guidance on exactly how this will apply to individual companies and workers.
So far it’s been announced that key workers in ‘about 500 sites’ in the food supply chain will be allowed to ‘test to return to work’ instead of having to self-isolate after they’ve been ‘pinged’ by the App or contacted by Test & Trace. According to Mr Eustice, this includes about 200 food production sites. However, at this stage we don’t know who is on that list.
It’s also not yet clear which workers at other sites that are not on that list will be exempt from self-isolation. In this separate scheme, we understand that companies will need to apply for exemption for individual workers on a job-by-job and person-by-person basis but we don’t know what jobs would be eligible.
Right now, we urgently need Government to publish more information giving clear, unambiguous guidance on which sites are exempt, which job roles qualify for exemption and exactly how these new rules will be applied.
We also question the Government’s decision to end the provision of free lateral flow testing kits to companies last Monday just as the ‘pingdemic’ started to take hold. This just makes it more difficult and more expensive for companies to provide workplace testing and will inevitably start filtering through into higher food prices.
We also hope that the various Government departments that will be handling exemption applications for individual workers between now and 16 August have sufficient administrative capacity to process them quickly enough.
Our fear is that, if infections keep rising at the current rate, there will be so many non-exempt workers taken out of the system that, regardless of those protected ‘key sites’, the rest of the supply chain around them will start failing.