Emergency measures to exempt food supply chain workers from coronavirus self-isolation rules will not be extended to other businesses, Environment Secretary George Eustice has told Sky News.
On excluding other sectors such as hospitality, the cabinet minister said he understood it was frustrating, but stressed the need to “dampen the pace and velocity” at which the infection was spreading.
It comes after the Government announced moves to protect food stocks in the face of mounting warnings about the impact of the so-called “pingdemic”.
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Under the plan to keep supermarket shelves stocked, daily testing will be offered as an alternative to self-isolation to round 10,000 workers in the food supply chain industry.
He said: “We are obviously keeping everything under review.
“The reason we have made a special exception for food is for very obvious reasons.
“We need to make sure that we maintain our food supply.
“We will never take risks with our food supply.
“When it comes to other sectors, yes of course the fact they are also carrying high absence levels is causing some stress for them, making it more difficult.
“But you also have to bear in mind why we are doing this.
“We are trying to still dampen the pace and velocity at which this infection is spreading, because we have to keep a very close eye on those hospitalisations.”
He added: “I know it’s frustrating for everybody but we do want to try to just dampen the curve of this infection, until it turns and things start to go in the other direction.”
A food and drink industry boss has welcomed the government’s announcement of exemptions from the NHS app isolation requirements for food supply chain workers.
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “The last few days of uncertainty have been a period of great disruption for the food and drink supply chain.
“It is clear that the government has listened to industry’s concerns and the recent announcement of exemptions from isolation, which includes food and drink manufacturers, is welcome.
“The devil is in the detail so we will continue to look into the guidance and further understand how the scheme will work.”