Some people working in the food production sector in England have been notified that if they are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, then they may not need to self-isolate.

With the changes, a critical worker who has had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case will be provided with a test each day at their food processing or distribution workplace and should the test return a negative result, they will be deemed safe to continue to work.

Up to 500 sites involved in the supply of food have been identified by authorities in England for implementation of the new testing scheme.

The system had been piloted prior to the announcement by Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice in recent days.

Veterinary medicine has also been identified by UK health authorities as a sector which can avail of the new contact testing measures in place of the previous isolation regime.


The new measures were introduced to improve the resilience of the agri-food supply chain, as reports of limited product shortages in supermarkets in England emerged last week, partially caused by the self-isolation of 620,000 workers in England and Wales.

Rising case numbers across the UK, but mainly in England, have increased the volume of workers having to self-isolate as contact tracing and the UK’s COVID-19 tracker app continue to inform critical workers, or 'ping' their phones, that they are a close contact with a confirmed case.

Site details

The British Meat Processors Association has called for clarification of the details of changes to the close contact rules.

According to the processors’ organisation, the sites identified by the authorities had not been detailed, leaving factories and distributors unsure of the how the changes will affect strains in the supply chain.

“Right now, we urgently need government to publish more information giving clear, unambiguous guidance on which sites are exempt, which job roles qualify for exemption and exactly how these new rules will be applied,” the body said after the announcement of the changes.

“Our fear is that, if infections keep rising at the current rate, there will be so many non-exempt workers taken out of the system that, regardless of those protected ‘key sites’, the rest of the supply chain around them will start failing,” the association stated.