UK to launch daily COVID tests in food sector to tackle 'pingdemic'

FILE PHOTO: Volunteers sort and check food quality at the FareShare food redistribution centre in Deptford, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in south east London, Britain, March 30, 2020. Picture taken March 30. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Daily contact testing will be rolled out to workplaces in Britain’s food sector so staff who have been ‘pinged’ by the COVID-19 app can keep working if they test negative rather than isolating, the government said on Thursday.

Supermarkets have said some products are in short supply and petrol stations have been forced to close after the official health app told hundreds of thousands of workers to isolate following contact with someone with the virus.

British newspapers carried front-page pictures of empty shelves in supermarkets and declared a “pingdemic”.

The government said priority testing sites had been identified for urgent implementation this week, including the largest supermarket distribution centres, and up to 500 sites would start next week.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said throughout the pandemic, workers in the food and drink sector had done everything they could to keep the country’s shelves stacked and 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,” he said.

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