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UK food workers given exemption from isolation rules

Supermarket depot workers and food manufacturers are among the occupations exempted from the U.K.'s isolation rules if they have contact with someone who later tests positive for the coronavirus.

The U.K. government announced late Thursday that daily coronavirus tests will be introduced for workers on an exemption list to avoid the need for isolation. Up to 500 testing sites will be set up at speed, including at the largest supermarket distribution centers, with rollout planned to start next week.

“Daily contact testing of workers in this vital sector will help to minimize the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk,” said Health Secretary Sajid Javid in a statement.

The announcement comes following concern that the U.K.'s food supply is under pressure because so many workers have been notified by the NHS Test & Trace app that they have been in contact with someone with COVID. Just yesterday, Secretary of Business Kwasi Kwarteng said he was “concerned” by risks of food shortages but insisted workers should isolate if they are "pinged" by the app.

Industry representatives welcomed the announcement but said they urgently needed more information about exactly which jobs would be covered by the new testing system.

Some working in the energy sector, digital infrastructure, food production and supply, waste, water, veterinary medicine, medical supplies, transport, emergency services, border control and local government are also on the exemption list.

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