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100,000 workers across key industries will be required to have daily COVID tests

   News / 05 Jan 2022

Published: 05 January 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s announcement that 100,000 workers across key industries - including food processing – will be required to have daily COVID tests to minimise the spread of the disease, has fuelled concern of further staff shortages, exacerbating already high numbers of people off sick because they have covid, or are forced to self-isolate.

  • Yesterday, Matthew Taylor, CEO of the NHS Confederation, which represents UK health-care workers and hospitals, told Times Radio that the scale of absences is “becoming almost impossible” to handle.
  • Rail and bus passengers are facing cancellations or fewer services as companies face high levels of staff absences due to Covid. The Rail Delivery Group said almost one in 10 rail workers were off ‘sick.’ ScotRail has introduced a temporary timetable with 160 fewer services until 28th January because hundreds of staff are isolating, forcing dozens of cancellations. South Western Railway said its services would be "subject to short notice cancellations" ahead of the company introducing a "consolidated timetable" from 17 January. LNER has announced it has cancelled 16 trains for this week but warned passengers there could be "other non-planned changes" to the timetable. The website of Transport for Wales showed 49 train journeys were cancelled on Monday, while TransPennine Express cancelled 37 and Avanti West Coast cancelled 25, the BBC says. Southern has said it is not putting on any direct services to London Victoria - a major commuter station - until next Monday.
  • Transport for London says that at the last count 500 of its 28,000-strong workforce was off because of Covid, however this has not affected Tube services, but the Waterloo & City line is closed until January 10th.
  • The Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents bus and coach operators across the UK, said up to 8% of its members' staff were currently off work, about double what it would usually expect.
  • Frozen food specialist Iceland has revealed that more than one in 10 workers are currently self-isolating. The supermarket chain told Sky News that about 3,300 people were currently at home - representing 11% of its entire workforce - as rules to stem the spread of the Omicron variant add to disruption. Iceland said the rates of staff absence in recent days were more than double last year's peak during the so-called "pingdemic", when users of the NHS COVID app identified as coming into close contact with someone who had tested positive had to isolate for 10 days. 
  • Sandwich chain Pret a Manger says about 4% of its employees are absent, the most since the start of the pandemic. The company has been forced to shuffle staff between outlets to limit the number of temporary closures.
  • Simon Emeny, chief executive officer of pub chain Fuller Smith & Turner Plc, told BBC Radio Four that absenteeism had peaked at its venues in London before Christmas, when 450 of the company’s 4,000 staff were off sick. As of Monday, that figure had dropped to 250.
  • Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium said: "Staff absences continue to rise in line with rising COVID cases, however the overall situation remains manageable throughout the supply chain. Retailers are monitoring the situation closely - clearly, continued rising absence rates due to self-isolation will get increasingly difficult to sustain."

Shop prices climbed at their fastest rate for nearly three years last month according to figures from the British Retail Consortium. Prices in December were 0.8% up compared with a year earlier, the highest rate since March 2019, led by food prices and blamed on factors including labour shortages across supply chains.
British factory output grew for a 19th consecutive month in December. The UK manufacturing PMI reading for the period was 57.9 - well above the 50 mark that denotes growth.
Bank of England figures show that UK consumers added an extra £862m to their credit card bills and put less money away in bank accounts in November, Sky News reports. The increase marks the biggest monthly increase in credit card borrowing since July 2020. Overall consumer credit, which also includes car finance and personal loans, rose by £1.23bn in November - also the highest for 16 months. Debt advice charity StepChange said the surge in credit card borrowing "may be an indicator of increasing underlying financial stress among some households" as living costs rise sharply.
Travel industry groups have called for all remaining Covid restrictions on travellers to be removed, the BBC reports, as compulsory testing for UK arrivals and departures is holding back recovery in the sector. Currently, all travellers to the UK aged 12 and over have to show proof of a negative covid test taken up to two days before departure, plus a PCR test within the first two days after their arrival in the UK. Trade body Airlines UK says continuing the current measures will be financially disastrous for the industry. Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has sent the government research it commissioned, which shows that although pre-departure testing has had little or no impact on the spread of Omicron, passenger numbers at MAG's airports fell by more than 30% after Omicron measures were introduced.
Purplebricks has refuted a Sunday Telegraph article suggesting it intends to offload its lettings business. "The article that appeared in the Telegraph this weekend regarding Purplebricks' plans to sell our lettings business is not true," the online estate agent said. "Lettings is a crucial part of our growth ambitions at Purplebricks and we will continue to invest in this part of our business as we move into 2022 and beyond."
Go-Ahead Group shares and bond were suspended temporarily from trading yesterday, pending its results for the year ended 3 July. Yahoo Finance UK reports that the London-listed passenger transport operator had said on 9 December that itself and its auditors Deloitte needed additional time to finalise audited statements and that it would not be possible to publish the results by 3 January, the last possible date for the results to be published under the FCA's disclosure guidance and transparency rules and the listing rules. Go-Ahead now says the end of year results will be published before the end of this month. Shares in Go-Ahead Group had closed down 1.55% at 667p on 31 December, the last trading day before the suspension request.
Macfarlane, the UK’s largest packaging distributor, has sold its specialist labels business to Reflex for £6.4m. Reflex is a privately-owned company focused on the manufacture of labels and flexible packaging, with revenues of £135m and more than 800 employees, primarily in the United Kingdom. For the year ended 31 December 2020, Macfarlane Labels generated pre-tax profit of £0.3m and as of 31 December, it had gross assets of £15.1m. The business employs 109 employees who will stay on after the sale.
Burger King is to start selling vegan ‘chicken’ nuggets across the UK as part of a pledge to make its menu 50% meat-free by 2030.
“A Serbian-born cable television tycoon has become the latest entrant to the Premier League's eclectic roster of club-owners after striking a £100m deal to buy Southampton FC”, Sky News reports. The broadcaster has learnt that Dragan Solak, founder of United Group, has invested a chunk of his fortune in a controlling stake in the club and is understood to be behind a new holding company which will examine offers for clubs in other international leagues, replicating a strategy employed by the owners of Manchester City. Rasmus Ankersen, the former Brentford co-director of football, and Henrik Kraft, a London-based investor, are also involved in the Southampton takeover. The deal will bring an end to the majority ownership of Gao Jisheng, a Chinese businessman who bought an 80% stake in the club in 2017. Southampton has been seeking a new owner for months.
US car giant General Motors has lost its title as America's top car seller for the first time in 90 years, the BBC reports. Japan's Toyota claimed the top spot, selling more than 2.3 million vehicles last year, up 10%. GM said its sales, which fell 13%, were hurt by the widespread shortage of semiconductor parts that has been affecting the car industry. The Detroit company had ranked as the number one US car seller since 1931 and vowed it would bounce back.
It’s the end of the road for the Blackberry. Yesterday, the Canadian company – which has morphed into a cyber-security software specialist - turned off support for its operating system. Launched in 2013, and once ubiquitous, the BlackBerry phone has since been dominated by smartphones produced by rivals Apple and Samsung.
US technology giant Apple has become the first company to hit a stock market valuation of $3tn (£2.2tn). The firm's share price has risen by around 5,800% since co-founder and former chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in 2007.

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