Sun, 26 Sep 2021

LONDON, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Supermarkets in Britain warned Thursday that the rising number of retail workers being forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19 has started to threaten the availability of some products.

More than 600,000 people were ordered to self-isolate by the NHS (National Health Service) COVID-19 Test and Trace app in the week to July 15, the new figures showed. Businesses in Britain complained about worker shortages because staff are self-isolating, saying the situation has threatened to disrupt food and fuel supplies.

Shoppers posted pictures of empty shelves in supermarkets across the country as industry leaders demanded urgent action to stop supplies being hit further.

Meanwhile, emergency services, public transport and postal deliveries have all been hit by staff shortages in recent days, according to local media reports.

The British Retail Consortium called for staff in stores and suppliers to be allowed to work even if they get an alert to self-isolate, provided they are double vaccinated or can show a negative COVID test.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised to businesses for the disruption, but he insisted the test-and-trace app is a vital tool in the battle against the virus.

The public has been urged not to panic buy. British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "I don't want people to get the impression that every shelf in every supermarket is bare - that is not the case but we are certainly concerned about instances of shortages, we are looking at the supply chains of critical industries and we are reviewing that situation."

According to the government guideline, isolation rules will last until Aug. 16. From that date, people who are fully vaccinated and under-18s will be able to avoid self-isolating by taking daily COVID tests.

Britain has reported another 39,906 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 5,602,321, according to official figures released Thursday.

England has recently lifted most COVID-19 restrictions as part of the final step of the roadmap out of the lockdown. Scientists have warned that lifting all restrictions at this stage could increase likelihood of dangerous variants.

About 88 percent of adults in Britain have received the first jab of COVID-19 vaccine and more than 69 percent have received two doses, according to the latest figures.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Russia, the United States as well as the European Union have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

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