Contact tracing rules blamed for shortages on supermarket shelves could be reviewed before the August 9 target, Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes revealed.
The Highlands MSP was responding to growing concerns at the lack of produce in some shops as more people are forced to self-isolate after being “pinged” by Covid contact tracing apps on phones.
The number of staff and delivery drivers self-isolating – dubbed the “pingdemic” – is growing at the same time as restrictions are being lifted during a major spike in infections.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared “freedom” from key public health measures in England on July 19 despite the rapid spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India. Restrictions are also being lifted in Scotland but at a slower pace.
Ms Forbes said: “The issues are much broader than just the self-isolation requirement but we are taking action.
“As we move beyond level 0, which we hope will be on August 9, we intend to remove that blanket requirement for close contacts to self-isolate as long as they’re double vaccinated and take a PCR test.”
Practical guidance will be published “shortly”, she said in an interview on BBC Radio Scotland. Some sectors could be eased earlier but she would not give details.
“We obviously are looking at where we can perhaps allow some sectors, some industries, to do that earlier, but we also have to take a very cautious approach,” she added.
‘Recipe for chaos’
Road hauliers, who also blamed the impact of Brexit, want the UK Government to make changes to protect the entire British supply chain.
Rod McKenzie, of the Road Haulage Association, said: “We started off with a shortage of 100,000 drivers, UK lorry drivers, and that’s because we’ve always had a shortage of 60,000 and we’ve lost an additional 20,000 European drivers, add to that 30,000 cancelled lorry driving tests in the past year which haven’t been made up.
“That’s a shortage of 100,000, and when you’re that short on staff to begin with, and you have the pingdemic on top of that, you’ve got a recipe for chaos, and chaos is what we’re now seeing unfolding in front of our eyes.”
Mr McKenzie added: “What we’re able to see is the effect in terms of our shops, our supermarkets and everything else. There are fewer drivers than there were last week – and there were shortages last week.
“Since the pingdemic has peaked we’re seeing this critical shortage get even worse.”
He called for better guidance from the Conservative government at Westminster.
“It will last as long as the Government continues to give confusing advice,” he said.
The managing director of Iceland shops meanwhile said staff absence rates are now double the usual number, with the figure rising 50% “week on week” due to people being told to self-isolate
Richard Walker told Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re in quite a serious situation that we need to sort out quickly.”
UK Government business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said a list of jobs exempt from isolation rules was being prepared, which could change the situation across Britain.
He said he would not “pre-empt” the list when asked if the food industry would be on it.