Environment Secretary George Eustice and Health Secretary Sajid Javid today outlined plans for daily contact testing for the food and drink industries – and received assurances from industry that problems were not widespread.
New targeted testing for certain workplaces is being rolled out – with the food industry prioritised, as part of the government’s close engagement with the sector.
At a roundtable with supermarket leaders, the government committed to putting in place actions to support the resilience of the food supply chain and supermarket leaders downplayed fears of shortages saying problems were not widespread.
Following clinical trial results, daily contact testing will be rolled out to critical workplaces in the food supply chain so that contacts who would otherwise be self-isolating can instead take daily tests.
Priority testing sites have already been identified with industry for urgent implementation this week, including the largest supermarket distribution centres, with rollout to hundreds of sites planned to start next week, with up to 500 sites in scope.
The move will allow daily testing for staff to take place so they can continue their vital work to supplying food for the nation. It will mean all workers who have received NHS Covid 19 app alert to isolate or have been called by Test and Trace will be able to continue working if they test negative.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
“Food businesses across the country have been the hidden heroes of the pandemic. We are working closely with industry to allow staff to go about their essential work safely with daily testing.
“The last 18 months have demonstrated that we have a highly resilient food supply chain. There are sufficient food supplies in the system and people can and should shop as normal.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:
“Throughout this global pandemic, workers in our food and drink sectors have overcome enormous challenges and done everything they can to keep our shelves stocked and our fridges full.
“As we manage this virus and do everything we can to break chains of transmission, daily contact testing of workers in this vital sector will help to minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk.”
In addition, the critical worker scheme announced on Monday applies to critical roles in the food supply chain. Employers are already in contact with Defra and approvals will follow shortly for named critical workers to attend their workplaces when they’re fully vaccinated and the contact of a positive case.
The government will continue to engage with food sector and provide all support needed.
Self-isolation is an essential tool for suppressing the transmission of the virus.
People who have been identified as contacts are at least five times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than other members of the public. Vaccines are highly effective at reducing the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death, and we are encouraging everyone to get the vaccine.
However, even those who are fully vaccinated may still become infected, including with asymptomatic infection, potentially passing the disease onto others.