M&S joins warnings over ‘pingdemic’

M&S has added its voice to warnings from industry, including the UK’s leading business group, that the government’s Covid-19 self-isolation policy could lead to shortages.

Steve Rowe, chief executive of Marks & Spencer warned on Sunday that the “pingdemic” of staff being told to isolate by the NHS app could lead to shortages of goods and could force the retailer to reduce its operations.

In an interview with the Sunday Times Rowe warned that three times as many staff are being pinged by the app as cases of Covid-19 double every week as a result of restrictions lifting.

He told the paper: “If there’s shortages we’ll have to manage it by changing hours of stores, reducing hours.”

His warning came as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) urged the government to bring forward its plans to allowed double-jabbed individuals to escape the requirement to isolate for 10 days after being a close contact of someone infected with Covid-19.

Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of the CBI, said the government’s plan to allow the double jabbed to return to work after a test on 16th August should be brought forward to today.

He also called on the government to create a route out of isolation for people not yet fully vaccinated to avoid disruption for UK businesses.

“With restrictions being lifted and cases rapidly increasing, we urgently need a surefooted approach from government, creating confidence to secure the recovery.

“This starts by immediately ending the self-isolation period of ten days for people who are double-jabbed. Against the backdrop of crippling staff shortages, speed is of the essence," he warned.

Bilimoria also called for clarity around the availability of free lateral flow tests for employees and citizens, and clearer communications from government around future country categorisation changes to help support the international travel sector, together with ramping up efforts for 100 per cent full adult vaccination.

He added that mask wearing in enclosed spaces, especially transport, will help create confidence for both staff and customers, as will clarity around the future availability of free testing for employees.

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