Iceland forced to close shops and recruit 2,000 extra workers over staff isolating

22 July 2021, 10:20 | Updated: 22 July 2021, 16:34

Iceland has already had to start closing stores
Iceland has already had to start closing stores. Picture: Alamy

Iceland stores have been forced to shut over the ‘pingdemic’ which has caused staff to isolate.

Iceland has had to shut a number of stores because of staff shortages, bosses have said.

The managing director of the frozen food giant, Richard Walker, has revealed 1,000 employees - which is four per cent of his workforce - have had to stay at home after being notified by the NHS app.

He also said there are issues with the supply chain because of a lack of HGV drivers, meaning two stores have already had to close.

Over 1000 Iceland workers have had to isolate
Over 1000 Iceland workers have had to isolate. Picture: Alamy

Over the next few days, the chain will have to hire another 2,000 people to fill temporary roles across the UK.

This comes after pictures taken yesterday show bare shelves and aisles in supermarkets up and down the country due to supply issues surrounding Brexit and lack of staff.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mr Walker said: "Issues around supply chain have been building for quite some time.

“We have a structural issue with HGV drivers for a variety of different reasons. The pingdemic has made it even worse. The double pronged problem is that our store workers are now getting pinged as well.

The Government has said they will loosen the isolation rules
The Government has said they will loosen the isolation rules. Picture: Alamy

"We have over 1,000 who have been pinged and are having to self isolate at home. The result of these two issues combined means that we are starting to see some availability issues.

“It is increasingly very challenging to keep our shops open, to keep lorries travelling to our shops, to keep food on our shelves and to keep staff in our shops to serve the customers."

He went on to call on the government to include retail workers in the list of key workers who should not have to isolate if they are double vaccinated and test negative for Covid.

But Mr Walker insisted shoppers shouldn't go out and panic buy, as ‘there is certainly no problem with supply of stock’, he added: "Panic-buying is only an option for those who can afford it and it often means that others go without."

They are not the only supermarket to be affected, with BP temporarily closing some petrol stations due to fuel supply problems and M&S warning 20 per cent of its staff could be self-isolating by next month.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has since said a list of critical workers who will no longer have to isolate if pinged by the Covid app will be drawn up 'very soon'.

He told Sky News: "We're going to announce a list of exempt workers. The list of exemptions will be quite narrow because, obviously, you have to draw the line somewhere."