UK Covid live news: Eustice says 10,000 food industry workers will be granted isolation exemption

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Hello. Georges Eustice, the environment secretary said this morning that more than 10,000 people working in the food supply industry will benefit from a program to use daily testing as an alternative to isolation. This means that if staff are pinged by the NHS Covid app, or told to isolate by test and trace, because they have been in contact with someone who tested positive, they will be able to stay on the job provided they are negative. Announcing the program last night, the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

Daily contact test [ie, testing for people who are contacts of people testing positive] will be deployed to critical workplaces in the food supply chain so that contacts who would otherwise self-isolate can undergo daily testing.
Priority test sites have already been identified with industry for urgent implementation this week, including major supermarket distribution centers, with rollout to hundreds of sites slated to begin next week, with up to ‘to 500 sites concerned.
The move will allow staff to perform daily tests so they can continue their vital work of providing food for the nation.

Explaining the impact of the plan this morning, Eustice said:

We identified nearly 500 key locations, including around 170 supermarket depots, and then a few hundred other key manufacturers like our bread makers, dairy companies, etc.
Everyone working at these key strategic sites, distribution depots and manufacturing facilities will be able to use this program, and probably well over 10,000 people.

Confusingly, the program was announced at the same time as the government gave details of a separate plan to allow critical workers in 16 key industries to also use testing as an alternative to isolation. But this is not a general policy; it will only apply to selected appointees, once their employers have obtained permission to include them from the relevant government department.

In interviews this morning, Eustice defended the decision to limit the scope of the second regime, covering critical workers. When asked why the government is not allowing supermarket store staff, for example, to use testing as an alternative to isolating how supermarket depot staff will be able to do it, he said that the government wanted to stick to isolation as a policy for most people. He said:

Well, the main reason is that it would be a really big business, because then you’re talking about thousands of different stores and a lot more people, and we still want to keep the system of testing, tracing, and isolating.
We know the most important thing is to ensure that the main arteries in our food supply chain continue to function, that the trucks continue to go from depots to move the goods for storage and that the food manufacturers can continue. to manufacture the goods to transport them to the depots.
When you get to the store level, of course, yes there will be difficulties, they will have staff shortages. But it’s easier to manage at this level.

Here is the program for the day.

9h30 : The ONS publishes figures on the social impact of the coronavirus.

12h : The ONS publishes its weekly survey on Covid infections.

Afternoon: The Government’s Science Advisory Group for Emergencies is expected to release a new package of briefing materials.

And today the Scottish government is expected to release details of its own changes to the isolation rules.

Politics Live has recently been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news and it likely will be today. For more developments on coronaviruses, follow our Global Covid Live Blog.

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