Some of the UK’s largest supermarkets warned Thursday that they could not stock some products, and gas station operators acknowledged that some pumps were running out.
BP (BP) said in a statement: “Some retailers in the UK are experiencing fuel supply problems and have unfortunately seen some stores temporarily closed due to the lack of both lead-free and diesel grades.”
BP said the “majority” of the shortfall is being addressed within a day. He blamed the truck driver shortage in the UK and said the fuel distribution terminal had to be temporarily closed as workers who could potentially be exposed to the coronavirus were quarantined.
UK workers must be quarantined at home for 10 days if they test positive for the virus or are instructed to do so by the national testing and tracking service, which warns people via an app “ping” if they are closed. Contact with someone who has tested positive.
According to National Health Service (NHS) data, the country’s new coronavirus cases are approaching 50,000 per day, and around 620,000 people in England and Wales have been instructed to quarantine via the app from 8 July to 14 July.
Retailers say large numbers of quarantine workers are not filling their shelves.
A spokesperson for supermarket chain Lidl said the staffing shortage “was starting to affect our operations.”
“As with all retailers, things are getting more and more difficult as more and more co-workers have to self-isolate after being notified by tracking and tracking systems,” the spokesperson said.
Another major supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s (JSAIY), said, “We are working hard to help our customers find what they need.” A spokesperson for the grocery chain Co-op said it was “working closely with suppliers” to restock shelves, although “some products are running out”.
Rising cases of the virus and the resulting increase in the number of quarantined workers are also exacerbating the truck driver shortage, in part due to Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Rod Mackenzie, managing director of policy and public affairs at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said the UK is facing a shortage of around 100,000 truck drivers, 20,000 of whom are EU citizens who have fled the UK since Brexit. He said the rise of cross-border bureaucracy after Brexit is preventing European drivers from traveling to the UK.
“If the ‘pingdemic’ hadn’t happened, we would still be in trouble,” he told CNN.
McKenzie told CNN Business he spoke with a British farmer who was only able to find one truck a week instead of five for transporting the fruit.
“It’s a miserable situation,” McKenzie said.
Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News Thursday that the government will “soon” release a list of new essential workers exempt from self-isolation, but warned that it would be “quite narrow”. He said the UK government is monitoring the shortage of supermarkets.
“Speed is paramount in a time when there is a serious shortage of manpower,” Karan Billimoria, president of the British Industry Federation (CBI), said in a statement.
Hanna Ziady contributed to this report.
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