Food firm tells staff to take tests over isolation after ‘pings’

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food distribution firm struggling with staff shortages is advising workers who are pinged by the NHS app to take tests and continue working, in breach of the Government advice.

Bidfood chief executive Andrew Selley defended his approach for delivery drivers to continue working if they have negative results as “appropriate and safe” because they are “critical workers”.

He said the firm, whose customers include hospitals, has heard no information about how to apply for an exemption for some fully-vaccinated staff to avoid quarantine under new plans to ease the “pingdemic”.

Amid a “real challenge” in completing orders on time, he said workers are being asked to follow a testing regime if they receive an alert from the app as a close contact.

We operate in Covid-safe workplaces and we’re absolutely key workers in terms of the supply chain to hospitals, care homes, prisons, and therefore it’s important for us to be able to keep offering that service to our customers

“We know that they’re critical workers as part of the food supply chain, so if people are obviously positive or contacted by Test and Trace then they will have to isolate,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“If they are pinged we ask them to take a PCR test, if that’s positive then clearly they’ll isolate, but if it’s negative we ask them to come back to work and we have a process of doing lateral flow tests daily away from their workplace, and if that’s negative they can proceed with their work.”

Ministers have confused the rules this week, but, as they stand, isolating for 10 days after an alert from the app is the official advice from the Government, but it is not a legal obligation like if contacted by Test and Trace.

Told his testing programme is contrary to Government advice, Mr Selley said: “We think that’s appropriate and safe. The ping is advisory.

“We operate in Covid-safe workplaces and we’re absolutely key workers in terms of the supply chain to hospitals, care homes, prisons, and therefore it’s important for us to be able to keep offering that service to our customers.”

Mr Selley said 100 staff from around 20 depots across the country were off isolating on Wednesday, presenting a “real challenge” with deliveries delivered late, or even the next day.

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