Supermarkets have warned that the growing number of retail workers forced into self-isolation is starting to affect the availability of some products.
The cooperative said it was “lacking some produce”, while Iceland said stores may have to be closed.
Sainsbury’s said it “might not always get” the exact products people wanted, but played down fears of a shortage by saying the problem was not widespread.
Iceland also urged buyers not to panic to buy, saying it is not necessary.
The cooperative said items such as soft drinks, personal care products such as deodorant and beer were the most affected.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government was “concerned about the shortages”.
“I don’t want people to feel like every shelf in every supermarket is bare – it isn’t, but we are certainly concerned about shortages, we are looking at critical industries supply chains. and we are looking at that situation, “he added.
A record 618,903 people in England and Wales were ‘screwed’ by the NHS Covid app in the week leading up to July 14.
Supermarkets and other sectors, including hospitality and transportation, said a growing number of employees have been affected, meaning they have to self-isolate for 10 days. Some businesses have reduced hours of operation to deal with staff shortages or to shut down parts of the business.
Companies want people doubly vaccinated or tested daily to be able to return to work.
Mr Kwarteng said the government would later issue guidance on which sectors would be exempt, although he declined to say whether this would include the food industry.
Numerous Thursday newspapers published images of empty shelves at some supermarket branches – some describing panicking buying certain items – but industry sources told the BBC that so far the shortages food was not a systemic problem.
Iceland’s Managing Director Richard Walker said the photographs of empty shelves in supermarkets were “isolated incidents”.
It is understood that Tesco is experiencing low availability on a small number of products due to the increase in the number of self-isolating workers as well as the shortage of truck drivers across the industry.
Meanwhile, the co-op said it was affected “by an uneven disruption to our deliveries and store operations.”
“We are working closely with our suppliers to restock quickly,” he added.
It is understood that items such as soft drinks, personal care products such as deodorants and beer are the most affected.
Lidl said the increase in the number of employees needing to self-isolate was starting to affect operations, but this worked to minimize disruption.
Around 1,000 Icelandic employees – nearly 4% of its staff – are currently absent for reasons related to Covid, with the north of England the most affected.
Of these, 27% tested positive for Covid, while 64% were ‘screwed’ by the NHS Covid app and ordered to isolate.
Iceland is recruiting 2,000 temporary workers to deal with the shortages while the cooperative will hire another 3,000 workers.
Waitrose, part of the John Lewis partnership, said: “We are working on the same challenges that all supermarkets are facing right now.
“As always, our goal is to maintain the best possible product line and high levels of service for our customers.”
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the growing number of workers being asked to isolate “is putting increasing pressure on the ability of retailers to maintain opening hours and stock shelves”.
A decline in the number of available heavy truck drivers, exacerbated by the growing number of individuals forced to self-isolate, has also “resulted in a minor disruption of some supply chains,” said Andrew Opie of the BRC.
The Road Haulage Association estimates there is a shortage of 100,000 heavy truck drivers in the UK due to workers returning to Europe after Brexit as well as delays in testing carriers for Covid.
Meanwhile, the British Meat Processors Association said some members are seeing between 5% and 10% of their workforce “pinged” by the app.
Under current self-isolation rules in England, anyone identified as close contact of a confirmed positive case must self-isolate for 10 days, whether or not they have received both doses of a vaccine.
If someone is isolated by NHS Test and Trace, they are legally obligated to do so.
But if someone is ‘screwed’ by the NHS Covid app, the requirement to self-isolate is just advice.
Andrew Selley, managing director of Bidfood UK, which supplies products to hospitals, nursing homes and prisons as well as restaurants, said he was asking workers who have been “pinched” to return to work after passing a negative PCR test.
“We have a process of performing lateral flow tests daily away from their workplace and if that is negative then they can continue with their work,” Selley said.
But Mr Kwarteng told the BBC: “The rules are clear and I think they should be followed.”
Earlier this week, the government announced that a “small number” of fully immunized critical workers, including health and care workers, would be allowed to continue doing their jobs even if they were in close contact with a woman. person tested positive for Covid.
The prime minister said he did not want to extend the exemption too widely in order to limit the spread of the virus.
The government argued that it was necessary to keep the isolation rules largely unchanged until August 16.
From that date, fully vaccinated people and those under the age of 18 will be able to avoid self-isolation by taking daily Covid tests.
Dozens of tips across England were also forced to suspend bin collections due to staff self-isolation.
BP said on Wednesday there was a shortage of truck drivers and staff isolation had caused fuel supply problems at some of its gas stations.
The oil company said shortages of unleaded petrol and diesel resulted in the temporary shutdown of a “handful” of its UK sites.
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