Industry calls for action on pingdemic

Jo Francis
Friday, July 23, 2021

Industry voices have joined the growing clamour for the government to take action to halt the so-called ‘pingdemic’ that is paralysing some businesses.

Unite described decision to end free tests for employers as "barmy"
Unite described decision to end free tests for employers as "barmy"

Yesterday, amid alarming images of empty shelves and the spectre of panic buying, the government bowed to pressure from supermarkets and said that parts of the food industry deemed critical would be allowed to carry out daily testing to avoid staff having to self-isolate. 

Other key sectors including the emergency services, border control, transport, waste, the water industry, local government, digital infrastructure and some defence facilities have been granted a narrow exemption.

The measures do not include parts of the supply chain, such as printing. 

The situation has also exacerbated the existing haulage crisis caused by the acute shortage of HGV drivers. 

There are widespread calls for the government to bring forward existing plans, currently slated for 16 August, whereby people who’ve been double jabbed, and the under 18s, will no longer need to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19. 

BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold told Printweek that members were being affected by the dramatic increase in pings – with a record 618,903 alerts sent by the NHS Covid-19 app in the week to 14 July. 

“What we know is that a number of companies are experiencing disruption,” he said.

“It is clearly causing an issue throughout the UK, and we would like to see the measures for double-vaccinated people not having to self-isolate brought forward.”

Jarrold said there was a risk of returning to the sort of discussions that took place with BEIS in March 2020 around what activities were deemed to be essential. 

“Within our industry some of the things being produced are for essential services. We will happily make BEIS aware and help affected firms in real time,” he said. 

“The second issue is the confusion about being pinged versus being contacted by Test & Trace, and we’re about to issue guidance to members on the facts and their legal responsibilities.”

In the current Printweek poll, almost 40% of respondents said their workplace had been affected by the pingdemic.

 

Unite the union has described the government’s decision to end the supply of free lateral flow tests to employers as “barmy” at a time when Covid-19 infections are rising. 

The union has also warned that frontline workers “are becoming increasing exasperated with the government’s failure to get a grip on surging numbers of Covid-19 infections, which has the knock on effect of requiring hundreds of thousands of workers to self-isolate”.

Unite national officer for drivers and warehouse staff Matt Draper said: “Our members are sick and tired to the government’s piecemeal approach to resolving the problems in the sector.

“Workers don’t blame the NHS app for requiring them to self-isolate, they blame the government for the rise in infections, which has been made far worse by its totally misguided decision to end all legal restrictions.”

Draper said that Unite members had already reported that some companies were reducing safeguards in the workplaces “which is dangerous and is a result of the mixed messages that the government is issuing on a daily basis”.

CBI president Lord Karan Bilimoria called for the government to immediately end the self-isolation period of 10 days for people who are double-jabbed, and bring in a route out of isolation for those not yet fully vaccinated through daily lateral flow tests. “Against the backdrop of crippling staff shortages, speed is of the essence,” he said. 

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