More than 600,000 users of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS)’s COVID-19 test and trace app had “ping” alerts recommending self-isolation earlier this month.
Dubbed “Pingdemic”, the app has asked users to start a 10-day quarantine if they test positive for coronavirus or were in close contact with someone.
The mass alert has had a significant impact for supermarkets and other businesses in UK stores, warning that products are running low, and staff shortages have hit restock capabilities. Some shops are changing their hours of operation in response to the challenge.
Grocery store chain Lidl indicated that an employee shortage is “starting to impact our operations.”
Supermarkets are hiring a large number of temporary workers to meet the staffing challenges. After 1,000 workers were unable to return to work, the Iceland grocery chain is hiring 2,000 interim workers.
Photos of empty shelves were shared widely on social media, but supermarkets downplayed the shortage, with Iceland declaring them “isolated incidents”.
Driver shortages and an increasing number of workers required to self-isolate have also led to fuel supply issues.
BP announced that a “vast majority” of shortages were going to be resolved “within days”, but that their “handful” of gas stations would be temporarily closed.
According to the BBC, isolation is only legally required when instructed by the NHS test and trace programme. A ping from the NHS COVID-19 app is simply an advised self-isolation.
Some business owners are trying to circumvent this regulation by allowing ‘pinged’ employees to return to work who have received negative PCR tests.
Trade Secretary Quasi Quarteng cautioned those trying to avoid isolation, saying that “the rules are clear, and I think they should be followed.”
The British government announced that these guidelines were required to be in place until 16 August, until further restrictions would be lifted.