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Haulier anger forced the UK government into yet another u-turn over the weekend: amid fears of a supply chain meltdown, it exempted truck drivers from self-isolation rules.
These require people notified by the NHS Covid-19 app that they have been in contact with an infected person to self-isolate for 10 days.
On Saturday, health secretary Sajid Javid added thousands more workers to a quarantine exemption list – including those in freight and transport – as criticism built over the so-called “pingdemic”, in which more than 500,000 people have been “pinged” by the app.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Our transport workers have done an incredible job throughout the pandemic to keep this country moving. To make sure they can continue to do their vital work safely, we’ll be rolling out testing sites to key transport locations – enabling staff to continue working with confidence.”
However, haulage workers reacted angrily to their initial oversight, and one haulage operator told The Loadstar the backtracking illustrated “ongoing incompetence” at the heart of government.
He said while his firm had, “thankfully”, experienced very little impact from the requirement to isolate, government failure to exempt drivers in the first place was “a glaring error” and added: “They just added insult to injury, what with the IR35 tax avoidance regulations being adopted in April.
“And allowing the go-ahead of the orange listing for European countries, resulting in drivers who, having returned home to see their families, were either not being able to travel back or having to isolate for 10 days if they were allowed to return.”
Under the new regulations, drivers “pinged” by the app can avoid self-isolation if they conduct daily lateral flow tests, returning negative results.
However, another haulage operator said he was not over-concerned over his drivers having to isolate and said: “Most people in the lorry driving game are older so won’t go clubbing and pubbing too often. So the chances of them getting pinged are lower.”
General manager of public policy at Logistics UK Alex Veitch said: “The logistics industry has worked hard to keep the nation supplied throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so. Safety must continue to be a top priority and we are confident our members remain conscientious about this.”