PLANS to end the crippling Pingdemic self-isolation rules on August 16 are hanging in the balance, a Cabinet minister warned today.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said there are “no guarantees” that Brits will be released from the need to quarantine next month.
He said No 10 will have to “review the information” the week before and then make a final decision on whether to press ahead.
The senior minister said: “It’s disruptive. The restrictions, fingers crossed, will be lifted on August 16.
“I’m confident they will be but I can’t guarantee that. We’re going to have to follow the rules until August 16.
“I know it’s a long time, but it’s not going to last forever. And I think that once the restrictions are lifted, we can get back to normality.”
His remarks will jangle nerves amongst business chiefs who have warned supply chains are being brought to their knees by the current system.
There are fears supermarkets will face big food shortages within 48 hours because of the huge numbers of workers self-isolating.
Mr Kwarteng said shoppers “shouldn’t be panicking” and the Government is “not looking at bringing in troops” to secure food supplies.
He said a list of key workers who will be exempt from the quarantine rules is being drawn up by No 10.
But he warned the scope of it would be “very narrow” and couldn’t say when it will be published – only that it will be “very soon”.
He admitted to being “very concerned about the situation” in shops but insisted Brits will have to stick to the rules for several more weeks.
The business secretary slapped down claims by his deputy Paul Scully that people could make an “informed choice” not to isolate if pinged by the app.
He said: “It’s not a personal choice. If you’re pinged you should self-isolate.
“We’ve got to focus on following the rules and the rules are simple. I’m not going to countenance people breaking the rules or anything like that.”
Some shops, petrol stations, and public services have been forced to shutter because of a lack of staff due to the Pingdemic.
Iceland have said it has closed “a number of stores” with 1,000 workers – four per cent of its workforce – forced to self-isolate after being pinged.
BP has temporarily closed some stations due to fuel supply problems, with M&S warning 20 per cent of its staff could be self-isolating by next month.
Iceland boss Richard Walker said he had hired 2,000 temporary workers to cover absences caused by the pingdemic.
And some London Underground lines are having to shut early this week because the number of staff having to quarantine is now so high.
He called for “urgent clarity” from the government on exempting retail workers and HGV drivers from self-isolating if pinged.
And he urged Brits not to panic buy if shortages appear on shelves.
Mr Walker told GMB: “Individuals have a large role to play to shop responsibly. Panic buying is only an option for those who can afford it.
“Once shelves are stripped bare it is the most vulnerable that actually suffer.
“There is no need to panic buy.”