Over 600,000 users of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service’s (NHS) COVID-19 test and trace app were “pinged” alerts recommending self-isolation earlier this month.
In what has been dubbed the “pingdemic,” the app told users to begin a 10-day quarantine if they tested positive for the coronavirus or had been in close contact with someone who did.
The mass alerts have had significant repercussions for supermarkets and other businesses in the U.K. Stores warn that products are running low, and staff shortages have affected restock abilities. Some shops are altering their hours of operation in response to the challenge.
Grocery store chain Lidl indicated a worker shortage was “starting to have an impact on our operations.”
Supermarkets are hiring large numbers of temporary employees to overcome staffing challenges. After 1,000 staff members were unable to return to work, the Iceland grocery chain is hiring 2,000 interim workers.
Photographs of empty shelves were widely shared on social media, but supermarkets downplayed the shortages, with Iceland declaring them “isolated incidents.”
Driver shortages and a rising number of workers required to self-isolate have also led to fuel supply issues.
BP announced that a “vast majority” of the shortages were going to be resolved “within the day,” but a “handful” of their gas stations will be temporarily closed.
According to the BBC, isolation is only legally required when instructed by the NHS test and trace program. A ping from the NHS COVID-19 app is only an advised self-isolation.
Some business owners are trying to circumvent this regulation by allowing ‘pinged’ employees who have received a negative PCR test to return to work.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng cautioned those attempting to avoid isolation, stating that “the rules are clear, and I think they should be followed.”
The British government announced that it is necessary to maintain these guidelines until August 16, when further restrictions are scheduled to be lifted.