Shops and supermarkets are under pressure to keep up with customer demand and ensure shelves are stocked amid increasing numbers of staff self isolating.
Pictures of empty shelves in some supermarket branches have emerged with some describing panic buying of certain items.
The British Retail Consortium has urged ministers to allow fully vaccinated retail workers or those who have tested negative for Covid to go to work after revealing rising staff shortages.
READ MORE: ‘I went shopping at M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Co-op on Freedom Day and was pleasantly surprised by how many people were wearing masks’
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The increasing number of workers being told to isolate by the NHS Covid App is “putting increasing pressure on retailers’ ability to maintain opening hours and keep shelves stocked”, according to the organisation.
Iceland is recruiting 2,000 temporary staff to cover absences. The supermarket chain said around 1,000 employees – almost 4 per cent of its staff – were currently absent for Covid-related reasons,
Of these, 27 per cent have tested positive for Covid, while 64 per cent have been “pinged” by the NHS Covid App and told to isolate.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “With community cases soaring, the number of healthy retail staff having to self-isolate is rising fast, disrupting retail operations.”
M&S has also warned of potential staff shortages due to an increase in people being pinged by the track and trace app.
The boss of Marks and Spencer, Steve Rowe, said by mid-August as many as 1 in 5 supermarket workers could be in home isolation.
It’s also thought that the number of HGV drivers has also fallen for similar reasons, which is impacting supply chains.
Staff shortages due to isolation rules are thought to be impacting sectors including hospitality, transport and the NHS.
Earlier this week, the government announced a “small number” of fully vaccinated critical workers, including health and care staff, would be allowed to continue working even if they had come into close contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid.
But the prime minister cautioned against extending the exemption too widely in order to limit the spread of the virus.
The government has argued it is necessary to keep isolation rules largely unchanged until August 16.
Under current self-isolation rules in England, anyone who is traced as a close contact of a confirmed positive case must isolate for 10 days, whether or not they have received both doses of a vaccine.