‘Narrow’ list of sectors exempt from isolation to be published today – minister

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“very narrow” list of sectors whose workers will be exempt from isolation rules will be published on Thursday, the Business Secretary has said as the Government struggles to contain the “pingdemic”.

Kwasi Kwarteng told shoppers not to panic over supermarket shortages as retailers warned the situation around alerts from the NHS app is “untenable” and requires an urgent rule change.

He was also forced to tell businesses to continue following the isolation advice after a boss of a food distributor revealed he was asking delivery drivers to take tests and not quarantine.

Downing Street this week suggested that there would be no list of sectors whose fully-vaccinated workers could face loosened isolation restrictions to prevent staff shortages.

I think what the most important thing for Government to do is to recognise that the current situation is untenable

But in the face of mounting pressure, Mr Kwarteng said: “We’re looking at different sectors and we will be publishing today the sectors that will be affected.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “I don’t think it’s a question of applying for this”, despite No 10 having said businesses need to apply to Government departments.

Mr Kwarteng said he would not “pre-empt” the list when asked if the food industry would be on it, amid pleas from bosses to prevent major staff shortages as Covid-19 cases soar.

But he told BBC Breakfast the list would be “very narrow, simply because we don’t want to get into a huge debate about who is exempt”.

Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker, said the supermarket was having to hire 2,000 temporary workers to prepare for “the exponential rise in pinging”.

(PA Graphics) / PA Graphics

Mr Walker told Today: “The dramatic pictures that you might have seen in the media are isolated incidents and not widespread.

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