M&S could reduce opening hours as “pingdemic” wipes out staff – .

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M&S could reduce opening hours as “pingdemic” wipes out staff – .


Up to 30% of retail staff in some areas have been forced to stay at home (Pictures: PA / Rex)

Shoppers have been warned to brace themselves for bare shelves at the supermarket as the so-called ‘pingdemic’ forces staff to isolate.

Marks and Spencer could resort to slashing its hours in response to the number of employees being alerted by the NHS Covid app, it has been reported.

Sainsbury’s has also warned of potential supply shortages partly due to a lack of lorry drivers.

Up to 30% of retail staff in some areas are believed to have been told to stay at home.

It comes as Boris Johnson made a humiliating U-turn this morning after being accused of ‘taking the pi**’ out of his own self-isolation rules.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak initially said they would not isolate after Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, tested positive for coronavirus – and would instead take part in a new test-and-release pilot scheme.

But they have now both backtracked after coming under fire over the decision, branded ‘dangerous and stupid’ by Labour Deputy Angela Rayner.

More than 500,000 people in just one week have been ordered to stay at home after being pinged by the app – a 46% rise on the previous seven days.

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And businesses and organisations have been brought to a standstill over the scheme.

The head of the UK Major Ports Group, which represents Britain’s largest commercial port operators, warned how staff absences would have a knock-on effect on food supplies.

Chief executive, Tim Morris, said some big operators were missing 10% of their employees – meaning ‘most ports would be running very, very thin on the ground’, according to The Sunday Times.

Marks and Spencer could be forced to reduce store hours to manage staff shortages (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Meanwhile M&S chief executive, Steve Rowe, said retail absences could soar to 20% within a month – describing the problem as a ‘major issue across every industry at the moment’.

‘Our Covid cases are roughly doubling every week and the pinging level is about three to one of Covid cases, so we’re seeing that growing exponentially.

‘If there’s shortages, we’ll have to manage it by changing hours of stores, reducing hours,’ Mr Rowe added.

And he warned: ‘Where the industry will see pain is the supply chain.’

Signage outside a Sainsbury's supermarket in Tunbridge Wells on January 7, 2021. - Sainsburys has upgraded its profit expectations by ??60m after surging sales of champagne, steaks and other luxury food drove stronger than expected sales over Christmas and new year. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Sainsbury’s has also warned of potential supply shortages due to a lack of lorry drivers (Picture: Ben Stanstall/AFP via Getty Images)

The crisis comes amid increasing concern the NHS app could be too sensitive.

Neighbours are being forced to self-isolate after being ‘pinged through brick walls’ by the app, which uses Bluetooth.

But NHS staff could be exempt from self-isolating if traced as a Covid contact in a bid to avoid the health service being hammered by absences.

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