‘It will be very narrow, simply because we don’t want to get into a huge debate about who is exempt,’ says Kwasi Kwarteng
A list of sectors exempt from Covid isolation rules will be published on Thursday, the business secretary has revealed.
The prime minister’s official spokesman previously said the government was not expecting to produce a list detailing precisely which jobs would be eligible for the exemption and that “business-critical areas” would instead have to apply to government departments.
But business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on Thursday contradicted this, saying Downing Street would be “publishing guidance today” in the form of a “very narrow” list.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think it’s a question of applying for this.
“We’re going to be publishing guidance today on who might be exempt.
“We’re looking at different sectors and we will be publishing today the sectors that will be affected.”
The minister had refused to be drawn on a timeline for the guidance being published earlier in the morning, telling the BBC and Sky it was “forthcoming” and would be released “very soon”.
He told BBC Breakfast the list would be “quite narrow, it will be very narrow, simply because we don’t want to get into a huge debate about who is exempt”.
Helen Dickinson, head of the British Retail Consortium, suggested rules around self-isolation should be amended for people working in food supply chains following rising levels of staff absence.
But Mr Kwarteng said he would not “pre-empt” the list when asked if the food industry would be on it.
He also contradicted his junior business minister Paul Scully, who earlier this week said it was a decision for individuals and employers whether they should isolate after a “ping” from the NHS Covid-19 app.
“The rule is very clear, we should self-isolate. It’s as simple as that. If you are pinged, you should self-isolate,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“I’m not going to countenance people breaking the rules or anything like that. I think they should just follow them.”
Retailers have warned they are under “increasing pressure” to keep shelves fully-stocked, as they called for in-store staff and suppliers to be allowed to work even if they get an alert from the NHS app.
A food distribution firm struggling with staff shortages has turned to drastic measures, advising its workers who are pinged by the NHS app to take tests and continue working, in breach of government advice.
Bidfood chief executive Andrew Selley defended his approach for delivery drivers to continue working if they have negative results as “appropriate and safe” because they are “critical workers”.
BP has also said lorry driver shortages are causing issues at some of the oil company’s petrol stations.
Additional reporting by Press Association