SUPERMARKET depot workers and food manufacturers will be exempt from quarantine rules as the government tries to prevent food supply problems.
The move comes after the rising number of retail workers being forced to self-isolate was beginning to affect the availability of some products.
The government said workers, regardless of vaccination status, could do daily Covid testing instead of isolating.
Up to 10,000 workers are expected to qualify for the scheme.
The new daily contact testing measures are beginning at 15 supermarket depots, followed by 150 depots next week, but they will not apply to supermarket store staff.
It comes as supermarkets said the supply of some products was being affected by the “pingdemic” keeping staff away from work.
A record 618,903 people were told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app between 8 and 15 July.in England and Wales.
While some retailers said they may have to close stores, they downplayed fears of food shortages, saying the problems were not widespread.
It will mean workers who are alerted by the app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace will be able to continue working if they test negative, whether or not they are vaccinated.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said “disruption is limited at the moment” but it was vital that the government rolls out the scheme as fast as possible and is prepared to take further action if necessary.
Separately, the government outlined plans to allow other key industries in England to deploy daily Covid testing instead of self-isolation for a limited number of essential workers. In this case, the scheme will only apply to workers who are fully vaccinated.
This scheme covers sectors including transport, emergency services, border control, energy, digital infrastructure, waste, the water industry, essential defence outputs and local government.
The policy only applies to workers named on a list kept updated by officials – it is not a blanket exemption for all employees in a sector.