UK Covid live: minister says list of critical workers exempt from isolation rules will be limited

Good morning. On Monday Boris Johnson said that some critical workers would be allowed to use testing as an alternative to isolation after contact with someone testing positive, to save them from the “pingdemic”. But he refused to give details. No 10 said a bit more at lobby on Tuesday, but at PMQs yesterday Sir Keir Starmer said he had read the briefing several times and “I haven’t a clue what it means.”

This morning Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, was doing the morning interview round for No 10 and he said that today guidance will be published saying which critical workers will be exempt from the current isolation rules. He said:

We’re looking at different sectors and we will be publishing today the sectors that will be affected.

But, when asked on the Today programme if the food industry would be exempt, he refused to say. And earlier, in an interview on BBC Breakfast, he said the list of people exempt would be “very narrow”. He said:

The list, I think, will be quite narrow, it will be very narrow, simply because we don’t want to get into a huge debate about who is exempt.

If the food industry is not included on the critical workers list, retailers will be disappointed. With supermarkets under increasing pressure, partly because of the pingdemic, to keep their shelves stocked, retailers want an exemption. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, told BBC Breakfast this morning:

There will be many smaller businesses where if they only have one or two staff and they need to self-isolate, then that’s them needing to close their doors completely …

I think what the most important thing for government to do is to recognise that the current situation is untenable …

Either those [self-isolation] rules need to change or something else in the wall of defences against the virus needs to be considered.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: The ONS publishes the latest quarterly crime figures for England and Wales.

10.30am: Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister, makes a statement to MPs.

11am: NHS test and trace publishes its latest performance figures.

After 1.30pm: MPs begin a backbench debate on the public administration and constitutional affairs committee report (pdf) making recommendations for the Covid inquiry.

2pm: Public Health England publishes its latest weekly Covid surveillance report.

Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently and that will probably be the case today. For more coronavirus developments, do follow our global Covid live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

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