Environment Secretary George Eustice and Health Secretary Sajid Javid have outlined plans for daily contact testing for the food and drink industries.
New targeted testing for certain workplaces is being rolled out – with the food industry prioritised, as part of the government’s engagement with the sector.
At a roundtable with supermarket leaders last week (Thursday 22 July), the government committed to putting in place actions to support the resilience of the food supply chain.
Following clinical trial results, daily contact testing will be rolled out to critical workplaces in the food supply chain so that contacts who would otherwise be self-isolating can instead take daily tests.
Priority testing sites have already been identified with industry for urgent implementation, including the largest supermarket distribution centres, with rollout to hundreds of sites planned to start this week, with up to 500 sites in scope.
The move will allow daily testing for staff to take place so they can continue their work to supplying food for the nation. It will mean workers who have received NHS Covid 19 app alert to isolate or have been called by Test and Trace will be able to continue working if they test negative.
Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: “Food businesses across the country have been the hidden heroes of the pandemic. We are working closely with industry to allow staff to go about their essential work safely with daily testing.
“The last 18 months have demonstrated that we have a highly resilient food supply chain. There are sufficient food supplies in the system and people can and should shop as normal.”
Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Throughout this global pandemic, workers in our food and drink sectors have overcome enormous challenges and done everything they can to keep our shelves stocked and our fridges full.
“As we manage this virus and do everything we can to break chains of transmission, daily contact testing of workers in this vital sector will help to minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk.”
In addition, the critical worker scheme applies to critical roles in the food supply chain. Employers are already in contact with Defra and approvals will follow shortly for named critical workers to attend their workplaces when they are fully vaccinated and the contact of a positive case.