Good morning. On Friday last week the government announced that it was setting up 500 Covid testing sites so that workers in the food supply industry, if told to isolate because they had been in contact with someone testing positive, could instead do a daily test as an alternative. It was the government’s first response to concern about the so-called “pingdemic”, and reports that hundreds of thousands of workers would be missing work because they were having to isolate. But at the time George Eustice, the environment secretary, stressed that this was only a limited measure, and that for most people the government was still committed to test, trace and isolate as its strategy.
Over the weekend the government announced that it was expanding the scheme further, with 200 more testing centres to cover emergency service staff – some police, firefighters, Border Force staff and transport workers. But last night a further, significant extension of the scheme was announced. The government said another 1,200 sites were being set up to cover “frontline sectors” and it said that this would take the total number of sites to 2,000 in England. That is a four-fold increase on what was on the table just four days ago.
Explaining the new sectors that will now be covered by the scheme, the government said:
In addition to critical staff working in prisons, defence and waste collection, people working in energy, pharmaceuticals, telecoms, chemicals, communications, water, space, fish, veterinary medicine and HMRC will also be prioritised for the 1,200 new daily contact testing sites.
This is not exactly a U-turn, but it is definite shift in tone from last week when, apart from the specific measures for the food supply industry, the government’s main response to “pingdemic” concerns was a scheme saying named workers could be exempt, provided their employers got specific permission from a government department.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS publishes its latest weekly death figures for England and Wales.
10am: Ken Clarke, the former Conservative cabinet minister, gives evidence to the infected blood inquiry.
Morning: Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, the home secretary, hold a visit to mark the publication of the government’s Beating Crime Plan.
11.30am: The all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus takes evidence from people with long Covid.
12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, holds a coronavirus briefing.
Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently and that will probably be the case today. For more coronavirus developments, do follow our global Covid live blog.
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