Army On Standby As 20% Of Food Chain Workers Self-Isolate

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 23 Jul 2021 10:27
Army On Standby As 20% Of Food Chain Workers Self-IsolatePA Images

Environment Secretary George Eustice has said the army is on standby in case the country’s food supply crisis worsens.

Due to being pinged by the NHS Track and Trace app, thousands of supermarket employees across parts of the UK are self-isolating.


Between July 8-15, 600,000 people in England and Wales were sent into isolation. However, it’s since come to light that the app has been pinging more than 10 times the actual number of coronavirus cases.

This has left supermarkets short-staffed and struggling to keep food on shelves.

Empty supermarket shelves (PA)PA Images

In light of this, Eustice has said the army is on standby to help. However, as it stands, there aren’t any plans to actually use them.


He said today, July 23, ‘We always have that option to call on the contingency the MoD always has in place for situations, but we don’t need that at the moment.’

As of today, it’s believed 20% of supermarket employees have been forced to self isolate. Food production is also facing difficulties as, according to Nigel Jenny, the boss of the Fresh Produce Consortium, there’s a shortage of staff ‘between 10% and 25% across the fresh produce industry’, The Sun reports.

Tesco 'out of stock' sign (PA)PA Images

BBC Breakfast’s Charlie Stayt grilled Eustice this morning on live television and asked why the government didn’t act sooner to tackle the food crisis and the difficulties supermarkets are facing.


He said, ‘You’ve been monitoring the situation for, I think you said a week or so. Why didn’t you do it sooner? Why did it have to get to the point where people were going to the shops and finding stuff missing?’

Stayt then asked why it took so long to come to ‘an obvious conclusion’ that more needed to be done to help the supermarket sector.

George Eustice (PA)PA Images

Eustice replied:


Well, it wasn’t clear to be honest, and last week where things would peak and level off in terms of people being asked to isolate, there’s an element of uncertainty here and at the end of last week, what supermarkets reported was that although there were certainly pressures and delivery time was slipping at that point we judged it was still manageable.

‘The industry reported that there were difficulties but we would keep it under review. I think what really happened is that on Monday and Tuesday we found there were further absences being reported so we acted swiftly to put in place the provisions that we need to keep the food supply chain going,’ he continued.

If you’ve been affected by coronavirus and want up to date advice, visit the Gov.uk help page here. If you need medical help call NHS 111 or visit online.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: News, COVID, Now, UK


The Sun
  1. The Sun

    PINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER Army on standby as 20% of Britain’s food workers hit by Pingdemic self-isolation & ‘half of deliveries DELAYED’