Supermarkets face empty shelves within 48 hours if isolation rules aren’t scrapped, it has been claimed.
Boris Johnson has been warned the huge numbers of staff off work after being pinged by the NHS Covid app means the UK is on the verge of similar stocking issues to the beginning of the pandemic.
The PM has apologised for the system but said he won’t change it.
Currently, anyone who’s come into contact with an infected person must isolate for 10 days until August 16 when those who are doubled jabbed are exempt.
Figures out on Thursday are expected to reveal up to a million people are currently off work due to being pinged – double the week before.
Photos are already showing sparse supermarket shelves, with some stores seeing opening hours affected due to supply and staff shortages.
The Mirror today found shelves empty at Morrisons in Granton, Edinburgh, an empty cheese counter in a Manchester Sainsbury’s, and bare shelves at Morrisons in Sidcup, Kent, and a Tesco branch in Cambridge.
An industry insider told the Sun: “Some stores say they will be in trouble in a couple of days without action.
“Opening hours are already being cut for some chains as well as the issues with getting products in and on shelves.”
Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, meanwhile, has called on the PM to “act fast” to prevent any further disruption to retail operations.
He said vital workers, including those in supermarkets, should be allowed to ignore the app as long as they are fully vaccinated or provide a negative test.
The hot weather has led to demand for barbecue food, ice cream and beer to add to the problem, some retail bosses say.
CEO of The British Meat Processors Association, Nick Allen, warned there is an “air of despondency creeping through the industry”.
He said there’s a sense of failure around the corner and staff morale “isn’t helped by these confusing messages from government”.
The PM is currently in isolation himself after close contact with new Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive.
He told MPs via video link from Chequers: “I apologise to everybody in business up and down the land and in all kinds of services, public sector or otherwise, who is experiencing inconvenience.”
Downing Street announced this week it will not be drawing up a list of critical jobs exempt from the rules.
Instead, employers will have to apply to government departments to allow workers to effectively avoid isolation when pinged.
On Monday, Mr Johnson said critical workers who have been fully jabbed for two weeks or more can travel to work but must remain at home otherwise.
But some bosses feel the process lacks any clarity with too many stages and will not allow for enough staff – particularly hauliers – to be exempt to make a difference in large retail chains.
Rod McKenzie, of the Road Haulage Association, said: “Where do you draw the line on lorry drivers, essential workers, the people in the supply chains? Because most of the people I know in the supply chain would say ‘hang on a sec, I’m an essential worker’.”
It comes as petrol stations across Britain were experiencing major fuel shortages on Wednesday due to delivery delays – caused in part by workers getting pinged.
BP said a “handful” of sites were forced to close temporarily but the “vast majority” of shortages were being “resolved within a day”.
The oil firm put the issue down to industry-wide lorry driver shortages, but added it was “exacerbated” by the temporary closure of its Hemel Hempstead distribution terminal due to some staff isolating.