England lifted some lockdown restrictions to aid the food supply chain — but has been criticized for being too hasty.
The Government exempted more than 10,000 workers from quarantine last Thursday after staff shortages, empty shelves and fears of panic-buying ravaged the country. Now, fully vaccinated employees whose work meets the standard of critical services can keep working and avoid self-isolation. A list of these citizens is kept on a list updated by officials.
“The move, along with a limited relaxation of self-isolation rules for “critical workers” in other key sectors and vital public services came amid growing concerns within government of the impact of the so-called ‘pingdemic’ on many key sectors of the British economy,” reports AP News.
The term refers to the National Health Service’s app. The contact-tracing app can show proof of vaccination, recent test results, and previous infections. Last week, the app “alerted 618,903 people in England and Wales this week alone to self isolate for 10 days after coming into suspected contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19,” per Newsweek.
Just days earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited a successful vaccine rollout and lower hospitalizations to reopen nightclubs and lift restrictions on large events.
“Cases will continue to rise as set out from the start of the Roadmap, but the vaccination programme has substantially weakened the link between infection and serious illness or death,” Johnson’s office said in a press release. “The current data does not suggest that unsustainable pressure will be put on the NHS but all data will be kept under constant review.”
The wave of sudden quarantines choked the British economy. Photos of empty store shelves circulated social media, sending panicked consumers to the store to stockpile supplies.
ABC News notes “many businesses, such as supermarket chain Iceland, have had to close some stores — something it didn’t have to do at the height of England’s three lockdowns during the pandemic.”
Without changes to the app’s rules, it is predicted to ping more than 1 million people a week this summer. Notified people are expected to isolate themselves at home for 10 days. In turn, the staffing shortages would further strain essential services and food processing across the United Kingdom.
On August 16, fully vaccinated people will be exempt from self-isolation requirements. Currently, 70% of the nation’s population are fully vaccinated and 88% have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
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