A list of sectors whose workers will be exempt from self isolation rules if they are double vaccinated has been published by the Government.
Ministers are allowing a ‘very narrow’ group of key workers to bypass the current regulations amid concerns that the UK is grinding to a halt due to the so-called ‘pingdemic.’
According to the updated guidance, officials will ‘agree the roles and workplaces that are likely to meet the criteria’ for the self-isolation exemption ‘on a daily basis’.
It is not a ‘blanket exemption for all workers in a sector’, with the policy only applying to named workers if their employer receives a letter from the relevant government department.
Millions of people have been forced into self isolation since restrictions were eased and the Delta Covid variant began spreading.
A record 618,903 alerts were sent to app users in England and Wales in the week to July 14, the latest NHS figures show.
Businesses have been reporting staff shortages in key industries, with food disappearing from supermarket shelves because so many delivery drivers have been pinged.
Workers who meet the criteria will be able to continue working even if they have been told to self isolate for ten days after coming into contact with a Covid positive person.
But they must have received two jabs of a Covid vaccine and take a PCR test, followed by daily lateral flow tests.
Frontline NHS and social care workers have already been granted exemptions from self isolation ‘in exceptional circumstances’ to alleviate pressure on hospitals.
Sectors exempt from self isolation rules
The guidance lists 16 sectors:
- civil nuclear
- digital infrastructure
- food production and supply
- veterinary medicines
- essential chemicals
- essential transport
- medical devices
- clinical consumable supplies
- emergency services
- border control
- essential defence
- local government
But it adds that ‘in some exceptional cases’ there may be critical roles in other sectors which could be agreed on a case-by-case basis.
Separate arrangements are in place for frontline health and care staff.
The updated guidance says ‘in the small number of situations where the self-isolation of close contacts would result in serious disruption to critical services, a limited number of named workers may be able to leave self-isolation under specific controls for the purpose of undertaking critical work only’.
The policy only applies to named workers if their employer has received a letter from the relevant government department.
‘This is not a blanket exemption for all workers in a sector,’ the guidance said.
Since Monday, bosses have been able to decide on a case-by-case basis whether employees should be allowed to come into work, but only if their absence would ‘lead to a significant risk of harm.’
Even if staff are granted an exemption that allows them to work, they must follow self-isolation rules at all other times, including not leaving the house except in an emergency and not having any visitors.
Other critical services such as rail signalling and traffic control also qualify for exemptions, the Government has previously announced.
Businesses have been pushing for rule changes after warning the situation around alerts from the NHS Covid app is ‘untenable’.
From August 16, anyone who has had both jabs will no longer have to self isolate after coming into contact with an infected person but industry bosses are warning this date is too late to address the problems currently being experienced.
Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker, said the supermarket was having to hire 2,000 temporary workers to prepare for ‘the exponential rise in pinging’.
The British Retail Consortium’s chief executive Helen Dickinson warned stores are closing, hours are being reduced and consumers are facing reduced choice.
Up to 25% of staff at some businesses in the food and drink industry are self-isolating, according to Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation.