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Live Politics latest news: Government ‘very concerned’ by supermarket empty shelves – but shoppers urged not to panic buy

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Live Politics latest news: Government 'very concerned' by supermarket empty shelves - but shoppers urged not to panic buy
Live Politics latest news: Government 'very concerned' by supermarket empty shelves - but shoppers urged not to panic buy
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  • Rees-Mogg among MPs to ditch face covering as Commons divide emerges
  • EU rejects UK’s call to renegotiate Northern Ireland Protocol
  • Coronavirus latest news: People urged to wear face masks in new campaign

The Government is “very concerned” about the pictures of empty shelves in supermarkets, a minister has said, as a supermarket boss urged people not to return to the “dark days” of panic buying.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, said a list of critical workers who will be eligible for loosened isolation rules if pinged by the Covid app will be drawn up “very soon”. Previously Downing Street said no such list would be created.

He told Sky News: “Obviously we are very concerned about the situation. I have spoken to members of the BRC and other people, and we are monitoring the situation.

“We’re going to announce a list of exempt workers. The list of exemptions will be quite narrow because, obviously, you have to draw the line somewhere.” 

It comes as Richard Walker, chairman of the supermarket chain Iceland, urged people not to panic buy, saying that empty shelves were “isolated” incidents.

“There are some availability issues… but there is enough to go around,” he told the BBC. “The people who should be panicking are the Government – the sooner they clear up this mess, the better.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

Auto update

On Off 8:23AM

Aug 16 will mark ‘enormous change’, says minister

The end of isolation requirements on Aug 16 will see an “enormous” change, the Business Secretary has said. 

He confirmed that restrictions would be lifted “across the board”, including the requirement to isolate. 

“I fully expect that restrictions will be lifted, that is what we are working towards,” he added. 

8:21AM

Empty shelves ‘not universal’, insists minister

The Business Secretary has said he is “very concerned about some developments”, but stressed that empty shelves were “not a universal thing”. 

Kwasi Kwarteng told Radio ‘s Today programme: “I don’t want people to get the impression that every shelf in every supermarket is bare – that’s certainly not the case. 

“But we are certainly concerned about instances of shortages, looking at the supply chains of certain industries,” he added. 

8:19AM

Exemption list to be published today, says Business Secretary

Kwasi Kwarteng has said the pingdemic is “challenging” but stressed it is just the latest in a long list of problems posed by the pandemic. 

The Business Secretary told Radio 4’s Today programme firms should not “apply” to get on the exemption list – contradicting previous messages from Downing Street – as he confirmed the list will be published today. 

“We will be publishing today the sectors which will be affected,” he added, but refused to “pre-empt” which jobs would be included. 

8:16AM

Government has not lost the battle in pingdemic, insists minister

A minister has rejected suggestions that large numbers of people are ignoring the requirement to isolate after being alerted by the NHS Covid app, saying “that is why it’s called a pingdemic. 

Asked about the case of Bidfood chief executive Andrew Selley, who has told staff to return to work if they test negative, Kwasi Kwarteng stressed the “vast majority of people are still isolating”. 

Asked if the Government has “lost the battle”, he told Radio 4’s Today programme: ” I don’t think we have…

“People are following the rules, they are getting pinged and self isolating – largely. I would strongly recommend they continue to do that.”

8:07AM

Change isolation rules or face further disruption, Government told

Self-isolation should be amended for people working in food supply chains before the disruption worsens, the head of the British Retail Consortium has said. 

“Either those rules need to change or something else in the wall of defences against the virus needs to be considered,” Helen Dickinson told BBC Breakfast.

She said she was not calling for the app to be ditched but added: “I want to be really clear that the … disruption that we are already seeing will only get worse.”

Bringing forward the date double-vaccinated people will not need to self-isolate if they come into contact with a positive case could be one solution. It is currently scheduled for Aug 16.  

8:04AM

Food delivery drivers told to take Covid test and return to work if they are pinged

A food distribution firm struggling with staff shortages is advising workers who are pinged by the NHS app to take tests and continue working, in breach of the Government advice.

Bidfood chief executive Andrew Selley defended his approach, telling Radio 4’s Today programme: “We know that they’re critical workers as part of the food supply chain, so if people are obviously positive or contacted by Test and Trace then they will have to isolate.”

Told his testing programme is contrary to Government advice, Mr Selley said: “We think that’s appropriate and safe. The ping is advisory.” 

Mr Selley said 100 staff from around 20 depots across the country were off isolating on Wednesday, presenting a “real challenge” with deliveries delivered late, or even the next day.

8:01AM

Consumers may have ‘less choice’ of produce over pingdemic pressures, admits BRC boss

Supermarkets are already trying to work around staff shortages caused by the pingdemic, the head of the British Retail Consortium has said. 

Helen Dickinson told BBC Breakfast: “Everybody I am talking to is seeing absence rates that are higher than they would normally expect. They are already taking mitigating actions which include changing shifts, reducing hours and, in some cases, needing to close stores.”

Consumers could get less choice in supermarkets, face longer waits for deliveries or reduced opening hours from their local stores between now and when the rules are due to change on Aug 16.

“I think what the most important thing for Government to do is to recognise that the current situation is untenable,” she said.

8:00AM

Don’t panic: BRC boss urges people to stay calm – but admits pingdemic might force store closures

Some food retailers will be forced to close stores because of the number of staff being told to self-isolate by the NHS app, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium has warned.

Helen Dickinson told BBC Breakfats that some areas of the country were harder-hit than others, making businesss owners increasingly anxious.

“Right now [Aug 16] feels a long time away given the rises that we’re seeing in case numbers,” she said.

“There will be many smaller businesses where if they only have one or two staff and they need to self-isolate, then that’s them needing to close their doors completely.

“What is the most important thing is that people don’t panic because there’s no need to panic, because there’s plenty of food in the country.”

7:56AM

EU may back down on renegotiating Northern Ireland protocol, says minister

The EU could back down and renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol, despite Brussels having ruled it out yesterday, the Business Secretary has said. 

Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News the protocol was “not something that was in stone, not something that was going to last forevermore”.

He added: “A deal is a deal but it wasn’t something that was going to last forever. Nobody thought the Northern Ireland protocol was going to define the role of Northern Ireland within the UK forevermore, it was something that was flexible.

“You’ll remember two years ago people said we were never going to get a deal from the EU but we did so. When people say they’re not going to look at the protocol again, I say ‘well, let’s just see’.”

7:52AM

Government unlikely to rise National Insurance for social care reform, says minister

The Business Secretary has said he does not expect the Government to increase national insurance to cover the long-anticipated social care reforms.

Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News it was a manifesto commitment that he “hoped” would not be broken although did not rule out other tax rises.

“I don’t see how we could increase national insurance, but… we’ve lived through an unprecedented time, we’ve been spending huge amounts of money that we never thought was possible and it’s up to the Chancellor and the Treasury, and the wider Government, to decide the Budget,” he said.

A social care plan will come “by the autumn”, he added – later than was expected.  

7:34AM

Boris Johnson faces Commons defeat over vaccine passports

Boris Johnson faces defeat in the House of Commons over his plans to bring in vaccine passports after Labour indicated that it would oppose the measures.

A Labour spokesman said making people show proof of Covid jabs for “everyday access” to venues was “costly, open to fraud and impractical”.

Mr Johnson said on Monday that he would change the law to require proof of two doses of a Covid vaccine for entry into nightclubs and “other venues where large crowds gather”.

To do so he must hold a vote in the Commons and the Lords but is now facing opposition from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, with defeat a real possibility. 

7:34AM

Good Morning

It’s the last day of term – but there is no sign of the pressure easing on the Government. 

After yesterday’s warning that the protocol was leading to empty shelves in Northern Ireland, it seems the rest of the United Kingdom is facing the more immediate issue of pingdemic staff absences resulting in food shortages. 

Meanwhile frontline health workers have said they may resort to industrial action over the three per cent pay rise, announced last night (some hours after expected). 

And, with the EU having rejected out of hand the UK’s call to renegotiate the protocol, will Boris Johnson call their bluff? 

Here’s today’s front page. 

The front page of tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph:

‘Pingdemic disrupts supermarket food supplies’#TomorrowsPapersToday

Sign up for the Front Page newsletterhttps://t.co/x8AV4Oomry pic.twitter.com/qvyekj0uqA

— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) July 21, 2021 8:23AM

Aug 16 will mark ‘enormous change’, says minister

The end of isolation requirements on Aug 16 will see an “enormous” change, the Business Secretary has said. 

He confirmed that restrictions would be lifted “across the board”, including the requirement to isolate. 

“I fully expect that restrictions will be lifted, that is what we are working towards,” he added. 

8:21AM

Empty shelves ‘not universal’, insists minister

The Business Secretary has said he is “very concerned about some developments”, but stressed that empty shelves were “not a universal thing”. 

Kwasi Kwarteng told Radio ‘s Today programme: “I don’t want people to get the impression that every shelf in every supermarket is bare – that’s certainly not the case. 

“But we are certainly concerned about instances of shortages, looking at the supply chains of certain industries,” he added. 

8:19AM

Exemption list to be published today, says Business Secretary

Kwasi Kwarteng has said the pingdemic is “challenging” but stressed it is just the latest in a long list of problems posed by the pandemic. 

The Business Secretary told Radio 4’s Today programme firms should not “apply” to get on the exemption list – contradicting previous messages from Downing Street – as he confirmed the list will be published today. 

“We will be publishing today the sectors which will be affected,” he added, but refused to “pre-empt” which jobs would be included. 

8:16AM

Government has not lost the battle in pingdemic, insists minister

A minister has rejected suggestions that large numbers of people are ignoring the requirement to isolate after being alerted by the NHS Covid app, saying “that is why it’s called a pingdemic. 

Asked about the case of Bidfood chief executive Andrew Selley, who has told staff to return to work if they test negative, Kwasi Kwarteng stressed the “vast majority of people are still isolating”. 

Asked if the Government has “lost the battle”, he told Radio 4’s Today programme: ” I don’t think we have…

“People are following the rules, they are getting pinged and self isolating – largely. I would strongly recommend they continue to do that.”

8:07AM

Change isolation rules or face further disruption, Government told

Self-isolation should be amended for people working in food supply chains before the disruption worsens, the head of the British Retail Consortium has said. 

“Either those rules need to change or something else in the wall of defences against the virus needs to be considered,” Helen Dickinson told BBC Breakfast.

She said she was not calling for the app to be ditched but added: “I want to be really clear that the … disruption that we are already seeing will only get worse.”

Bringing forward the date double-vaccinated people will not need to self-isolate if they come into contact with a positive case could be one solution. It is currently scheduled for Aug 16.  

8:04AM

Food delivery drivers told to take Covid test and return to work if they are pinged

A food distribution firm struggling with staff shortages is advising workers who are pinged by the NHS app to take tests and continue working, in breach of the Government advice.

Bidfood chief executive Andrew Selley defended his approach, telling Radio 4’s Today programme: “We know that they’re critical workers as part of the food supply chain, so if people are obviously positive or contacted by Test and Trace then they will have to isolate.”

Told his testing programme is contrary to Government advice, Mr Selley said: “We think that’s appropriate and safe. The ping is advisory.” 

Mr Selley said 100 staff from around 20 depots across the country were off isolating on Wednesday, presenting a “real challenge” with deliveries delivered late, or even the next day.

8:01AM

Consumers may have ‘less choice’ of produce over pingdemic pressures, admits BRC boss

Supermarkets are already trying to work around staff shortages caused by the pingdemic, the head of the British Retail Consortium has said. 

Helen Dickinson told BBC Breakfast: “Everybody I am talking to is seeing absence rates that are higher than they would normally expect. They are already taking mitigating actions which include changing shifts, reducing hours and, in some cases, needing to close stores.”

Consumers could get less choice in supermarkets, face longer waits for deliveries or reduced opening hours from their local stores between now and when the rules are due to change on Aug 16.

“I think what the most important thing for Government to do is to recognise that the current situation is untenable,” she said.

8:00AM

Don’t panic: BRC boss urges people to stay calm – but admits pingdemic might force store closures

Some food retailers will be forced to close stores because of the number of staff being told to self-isolate by the NHS app, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium has warned.

Helen Dickinson told BBC Breakfats that some areas of the country were harder-hit than others, making businesss owners increasingly anxious.

“Right now [Aug 16] feels a long time away given the rises that we’re seeing in case numbers,” she said.

“There will be many smaller businesses where if they only have one or two staff and they need to self-isolate, then that’s them needing to close their doors completely.

“What is the most important thing is that people don’t panic because there’s no need to panic, because there’s plenty of food in the country.”

7:56AM

EU may back down on renegotiating Northern Ireland protocol, says minister

The EU could back down and renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol, despite Brussels having ruled it out yesterday, the Business Secretary has said. 

Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News the protocol was “not something that was in stone, not something that was going to last forevermore”.

He added: “A deal is a deal but it wasn’t something that was going to last forever. Nobody thought the Northern Ireland protocol was going to define the role of Northern Ireland within the UK forevermore, it was something that was flexible.

“You’ll remember two years ago people said we were never going to get a deal from the EU but we did so. When people say they’re not going to look at the protocol again, I say ‘well, let’s just see’.”

7:52AM

Government unlikely to rise National Insurance for social care reform, says minister

The Business Secretary has said he does not expect the Government to increase national insurance to cover the long-anticipated social care reforms.

Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News it was a manifesto commitment that he “hoped” would not be broken although did not rule out other tax rises.

“I don’t see how we could increase national insurance, but… we’ve lived through an unprecedented time, we’ve been spending huge amounts of money that we never thought was possible and it’s up to the Chancellor and the Treasury, and the wider Government, to decide the Budget,” he said.

A social care plan will come “by the autumn”, he added – later than was expected.  

7:34AM

Boris Johnson faces Commons defeat over vaccine passports

Boris Johnson faces defeat in the House of Commons over his plans to bring in vaccine passports after Labour indicated that it would oppose the measures.

A Labour spokesman said making people show proof of Covid jabs for “everyday access” to venues was “costly, open to fraud and impractical”.

Mr Johnson said on Monday that he would change the law to require proof of two doses of a Covid vaccine for entry into nightclubs and “other venues where large crowds gather”.

To do so he must hold a vote in the Commons and the Lords but is now facing opposition from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, with defeat a real possibility. 

7:34AM

Good Morning

It’s the last day of term – but there is no sign of the pressure easing on the Government. 

After yesterday’s warning that the protocol was leading to empty shelves in Northern Ireland, it seems the rest of the United Kingdom is facing the more immediate issue of pingdemic staff absences resulting in food shortages. 

Meanwhile frontline health workers have said they may resort to industrial action over the three per cent pay rise, announced last night (some hours after expected). 

And, with the EU having rejected out of hand the UK’s call to renegotiate the protocol, will Boris Johnson call their bluff? 

Here’s today’s front page. 

The front page of tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph:

‘Pingdemic disrupts supermarket food supplies’#TomorrowsPapersToday

Sign up for the Front Page newsletterhttps://t.co/x8AV4Oomry pic.twitter.com/qvyekj0uqA

— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) July 21, 2021

Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2021/07/22/boris-johnson-supermarket-shelves-empty-isolation-exemption/

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