Politics latest news: End to pingdemic in doubt as August 16 date could be postponed, minister warns

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Many supermarket shelves were left empty as the pingdemic means that thousands of workers are in self-isolation - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
Many supermarket shelves were left empty as the pingdemic means that thousands of workers are in self-isolation - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

The plans to end self-isolation for fully-vaccinated people 'pinged' by the NHS Covid app on August 16 could "always change in either direction", a Cabinet minister has warned.

George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, said that the date set to end the pingdemic is "not coming forward" at the moment, and that the Government will make decisions based on "data not dates".

He told Sky News: "People want to have a clear idea of where they stand and the reason we set that date, and of course things could always change in either direction, is to give people some kind of indication of what they can expect."

It comes as the Government released its list of exempt key workers and sectors last night in its bid to cut the number of people required to self-isolate after being contacted by the NHS app.

Ministers have been under pressure to change the self-isolation system after the latest NHS figures showed that 607,486 people in England were pinged in the week up to July 14, leading to thousands of shop workers, food industry staff and delivery drivers being forced to miss work.

The Environment Secretary said the Government is "keeping everything under review all of the time", but that the current system of "test, track and isolate" will be maintained to drive down Covid infections.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

07:18 AM

Government is 'never going to take risks with our food supply', says Cabinet minister

Environment Secretary George Eustice has said ministers are "never going to take risks with our food supply".

Mr Eustice told Sky News there were two different schemes and that in the food sector all employees at identified sites would be automatically included.

He added: "For sectors like the nuclear power industry, the rail network, the water industry, where you have a small number of highly-skilled professionals that you need to ensure can come to work, we're having an exemption for them as well ... but it's quite a narrow exemption.

"For the food sector, it's very different. This is quite a big exemption."

He added: "They don't need to apply."

06:55 AM

Watch: Labour MP Dawn Butler ordered to leave the House of Commons after calling Boris Johnson a liar

A Labour MP has been suspended from the Commons for the rest of the day for refusing to retract accusation of Prime Minister being a liar.

Dawn Butler, the MP for Brent Central, claimed Boris Johnson was "making his friends rich" through crony contracts, as he accused him of running a "corrupt, authoritarian, racist-enabling Government".

06:49 AM

More than 10,000 people in food sector to avoid pingdemic isolation if fully-vaccinated

Environment Secretary George Eustice has said more than 10,000 people in the food sector will be able to avoid isolation if they are double-jabbed.

He told Sky News: "We've identified close to 500 key sites, that includes around 170 supermarket depots, and then another couple of hundred key manufacturers like our bread manufacturers, dairy companies and so on.

"All of the people working in those key strategic sites, distribution depots and those manufacturing facilities will be able to use this scheme, and probably well over 10,000 people."

06:01 AM

Keir Starmer: 'Lucky' Johnson will run out of road because voters want integrity

Sir Keir Starmer said the "road will run out" for Boris Johnson as the British public believe in "integrity, honesty and accountability".

The Labour leader hinted that he would be open to the prospect of anti-Tory alliances with other parties ahead of the next general election as he took direct aim at the Prime Minister's character.

He claimed Mr Johnson had been "lucky" due to the pandemic, with the Government able to address fears over the virus and job security through the vaccine programme and the furlough scheme.

But with most people now jabbed and the furlough scheme winding down, Sir Keir told ITV's Calling Peston podcast that the public's attention would turn to other aspects of the Prime Minister's record.

There was "government by soundbite" and "mounting promises that are just broken" on issues including the Northern Ireland Protocol, the size of the army, overseas aid, tax and social care.

Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs on Wednesday - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire
Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs on Wednesday - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire

05:58 AM

Good Morning

Parliament is now in recess - but the pressure on the Government remains as the reaction rolls in to the list of 'pingdemic' exempt workers that was released late last night.

As a result, daily Covid testing will now be implemented at key food industry sites in England as part of emergency measures to protect supplies and to stop staff having to self-isolate when pinged by the NHS Covid app.

Meanwhile, the UK's call to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol continued yesterday, with Boris Johnson holding unfruitful phone calls with both Ursula von der Leyen and Angela Merkel.

He found a similar level of support in Berlin as he did in Brussels: "Both leaders agreed to remain in touch."

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