Mass coronavirus testing has been rolled out for food industry workers as the "pingdemic" continues to strip supermarket shelves.
Workers who would have been self-isolating will be able to take daily tests under the new schemes to reduce staff shortages.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) held a meeting with supermarket leaders on Thursday and committed to actions to support the resilience of the food supply chain.
Industry bosses had pressured the government into dropping the mandatory 10-day isolation for some workers as business up and down the country began experiencing supply issues and forced closures due to the pingdemic.
Ministers have already identified “priority” sites, including supermarket distribution centres, where testing will start this week, eventually rolling out to 500 locations.
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A sign requesting shoppers' patience about products temporarily out of stock is displayed on empty shelves
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
The move will allow daily testing for staff to take place so they can continue their vital work to supplying food for the nation.
It will mean all 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.”
It comes after Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said a “very narrow” list of sectors whose workers will be exempt from isolation rules would be published.
He said he would not “pre-empt” the details when asked if the food industry would be on it.