Thousands of Royal Mail workers have been forced into Covid-19 self-isolation after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Track and Trace app, causing delivery chaos across parts of the UK.
The company is warning of disruption to postal services in 12 areas, with service alerts issued for eight locations alone over the weekend.
Which areas are affected?
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Staff shortages are currently affecting Royal Mail deliveries in the following 12 areas of the UK:
- Bath (BA1 and BA2)
- Blackpool (FY1 to FY6)
- Chorley (PR6)
- Debden (IG7, IG8, IG9, IG10)
- Enfield (EN1, EN2, EN3)
- Henley on Thames (RG9)
- Middleton (M24)
- Newton Abbot (TQ12, TQ13)
- Plympton (PL7)
- Rochdale (OL11, OL12, OL13, OL14, OL15, OL16)
- Southport (PR8)
- Worthing (BN11, BN12, BN13, BN14)
Royal Mail has apologised for the inconvenience to customers in a message on its website, adding that it will prioritise the delivery of coronavirus vaccination letters and testing kits.
The company said it aims to deliver at least every other day in the affected areas, although this may not always be possible in offices that have been temporarily disrupted due to high levels of absence.
A total of 15 service alerts have been issued by Royal Mail in July so far, compared to just four during the entirety of June.
Services at Yate, Ivybridge and Hythe, which were all affected by staff shortages earlier this month, have now returned to normal.
In a statement, the company said: “Due to resourcing issues, associated self-isolation and safety measures, deliveries in some areas may be disrupted this week.
“We aim to deliver at least every other day in these areas, though this may not always be possible in offices temporarily affected by very high levels of absence.
“We're sorry for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.
“We’re working hard to deliver as comprehensive a service as possible with the resource available. And we’re ensuring we prioritise the delivery of Covid-19 vaccination letters and test kits.”
Who is exempt from self-isolation?
Postal workers are the latest to be affected by the so-called “pingdemic” which has seen workers across the country to quarantine at home after being “pinged” by the Covid app.
More than 520,000 self-isolation alerts were sent to app users in the week up to 7 July, up 46 per cent on the previous week.
At least half a dozen industry bodies from healthcare, transport, retail and manufacturing sectors have warned of staff shortages caused by the alerts, with some companies reportedly missing 20 per cent of their workforce.
Iceland and M&S bosses have warned of store closures and reduced hours due to the volume of staff self-isolating, while pub chains have been forced to close some branches.
The Prime Minister has now announced that some workers will be exempt from having to quarantine if they are ‘pinged’ by the NHS Track and Trace app, after coming under pressure over the so-called “pingdemic”.
Boris Johnson said a “small number” of key workers who have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be freed from the isolation rules if they are contacted by the app, including staff in food factories, transport, national security, police, military and NHS staff and social care workers, among a few others.
Workers who qualify will still have to test negative for Covid-19 to be able to attend work and take daily lateral flow tests.
The government clarified that the rule change is “not a blanket exemption for any sector or role” and said departments will be writing to employers to explain their next steps.
People who do not qualify for exemption must continue to self-isolate if contacted by the app.
A version of this article orignally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.