Bin collections could be among the string of services affected by staff having to self-isolate after being pinged, the Mayor of London has said.
The Mayor’s intervention came as the country is gripped by a so-dubbed “pingdemic” which has seen more than 600,000 people being told to self-isolate in the week to July 14.
With more than a million people currently self-isolating, widespread concerns have been raised for businesses being affected or forced to close due to them not having enough staff.
In an urgent intervention earlier today, Sadiq Khan warned the pingdemic could impact “absolutely crucial services” including bin collections.
The Mayor told the Standard: “I am increasingly concerned about our ability to maintain current levels of absolutely crucial services like public transport, food supplies and bin collections.”
He spoke as a string of supermarkets, pubs and restaurants have announced they had to shut their stores because of staff being pinged.
Iceland said it had to shut some of its branches after some 1,000 employees were pinged.
Its managing director Richard Walker said the chain had to hire 2,000 more staff to make up for the current shortfall.
Pret a Manger also temporarily closed 17 stores, while pubs chain Greene King shut 33 branches in a week and Mitchells & Butlers Plc, which runs around 1,700 pubs and restaurants in the UK, reportedly closed up to 40 venues across its brands.
BP was also among those to announce that a “handful” of petrol stations had to close.
The oil firm put the issue down to industry-wide lorry driver shortages, but added it was “exacerbated” by the temporary closure of its Hemel Hempstead distribution terminal due to some staff isolating.
Pointing out how three different Tube lines had to shut over the weekend and the start of this week because of staff self-isolating, Mr Khan then told LBC: “We are talking to the Government about whether they are able to extend the exemption scheme so those key workers across our city — not just Transport for London but police, fire, food supplies — if they have had both jabs and they have had a negative test, if they can continue working.”
The government is facing mounting pressure to change the current system so that it, for example, exempts key workers from self-isolating and allows those who have been double-jabbed and who test negative to also be exempt.
Confederation of British Industry director general Tony Danker echoed the call, saying the Government must end its “awkward compromise”.
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“The current approach to self-isolation is closing down the economy rather than opening it up,” Mr Danker said.
“Businesses have exhausted their contingency plans and are at risk of grinding to a halt in the next few weeks.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told shoppers not to panic in the face of supermarket shortages and attempted to ease concerns over the “pingdemic” as Covid-19 cases soar.
He said a “very narrow” list of sectors whose workers will be exempt from isolation rules would be published later on Thursday, but Downing Street later suggested it would instead be “examples of the sectors where exemptions could apply”.