Instead, employers will have to turn to government departments to enable workers to effectively circumvent the rules.
Boris Johnson announced Monday that critical workers, who have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks, will be able to break out of isolation to get to work and do their jobs but must stay home in isolation if not.
“But for the vast majority of us, myself included, I’m afraid we need to stick to this system for now,” he said on Monday when he retired from Checkers. où the self-islands.
A list of specific jobs was expected, but instead the prime minister’s spokesperson said the exemption would be determined on a case-by-case basis, with employers having to approach the relevant government department to see if their workers can continue to work after being identified as close contacts of a person who tested positive for COVID.
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The spokesperson said this could include some workers in the food industry, utilities, border staff and the NHS, but there is no blanket exemption for sectors.
He added: “I don’t have a specific number for you at the moment. As these discussions unfold, we may get a clearer idea of the numbers, but as the Prime Minister said yesterday, it will be a very low number of people. “
When asked if it would be on the scale of hundreds or thousands, the spokesperson said, “I wouldn’t want to define specific numbers at this point. “
As to whether supermarket workers would be specifically included in the exemption, he said the government “is not looking to draw lines specifically around who or who is not exempt,” but it is important to “s ‘ensure that essential services are able to function’.
He added: “The first exemptions that I understand have already been granted in some critical areas, this work is ongoing given the urgency. This concerns both broader sectors and the NHS as well. “
Analysis by Tom Rayner, Digital Policy Editor
After announcing self-isolation exemptions for healthcare and primary care workers, the Prime Minister said last night that the alternative of daily testing would be further extended to a “very small number” of others. critical workers.
He said these limited exemptions would be used to protect essential public services, such as the supply of water, food, electricity and medicine.
It was clear that this would not be a list of essential workers as broad as that which had been used in earlier stages of the pandemic, such as the categorizations that allowed children of key workers to continue to patronize the school, which represented about 2 million people.
But since the option of daily testing had been made available to frontline health workers in all fields, many employers in food production and other fields listed by Mr Johnson assumed that the exemption would be applied in the same way to their sectors.
This assumption was understandable, given that this morning a minister said that a self-isolation notification from the NHS application should allow businesses and individuals “to make decisions on what is best for them”.
The government has now said that was not the case, that isolation remains crucial for most workers and that individual employers will have to seek exemptions on a case-by-case basis from specific departments in Whitehall.
Despite Downing Street’s insistence, their message has not changed between last night and today, with many companies struggling to cope with the lack of a workforce wondering if they were listening to the same ad .
Industry representatives said the new rules are confusing and companies need urgent clarification.
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, welcomed the fact that food production workers would be exempt from self-isolation, but they “urgently need clarification from the government, including further details on how the program works ”.
Claire Walker, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The messages from the government seemed to have changed hour by hour today and businesses are really struggling to understand them.
“Businesses urgently need government to take control and provide clear, unambiguous direction on what they can and cannot do, as well as a clear direction forward. “
Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, said the only way the policy could make a “significant difference” was to apply a blanket exemption to an entire company or an entire division of the supply chain.
“Requiring companies to appoint individual workers will be time consuming, difficult and confusing, and unlikely to make a significant difference. “
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said earlier that the exemption would cover people in “circumstances where there would be a serious risk of harming public welfare if people in critical roles could not make it to the country. their place of work ”.
A government spokesperson added on Monday evening that this was “not a general exemption for any sector or role” and employers will receive a letter from the relevant government department informing them and directing them to the next steps.
But the advice seems to have changed slightly, it is up to employers to contact the government instead of the other way around.
The prime minister had come under increasing pressure to change isolation rules for close contacts of positive cases who work in essential industries as this cripples businesses.
Dubbed the ‘pingdemic’, a growing number of people have been alerted by the NHS COVID app in recent weeks, meaning many critical workers without symptoms – who cannot work from home – must self-isolate.
In the first week of July, more than half a million people were asked to self-isolate, a 46% increase from the previous week and a number that continues to rise.
The government said it has no plans to reduce the sensitivity of the app to avoid people being questioned because a third of those asked to isolate develop symptoms.
Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have also come under heavy criticism for saying they will participate in a pilot project where they will take daily tests instead of self-isolating after coming into contact with the Secretary of State. Health Sajid Javid, who tested positive.
They quickly turned around and said they would self-isolate, with Mr Johnson insisting he was not above the rules.