Thousands of Royal Mail workers have been forced into self-isolation from Covid-19 after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Track and Trace app, causing delivery chaos in parts of the UK.
The company is warning of postal service disruptions in 12 areas, with service alerts issued for just eight locations over the weekend.
Which areas are affected?
Staff shortages are currently affecting Royal Mail deliveries to the following 12 regions of the UK:
- Bath (BA1 and BA2)
- Blackpool (FY1 to FY6)
- Chorley (PR6)
- Debden (IG7, IG8, IG9, IG10)
- Enfield (EN1, EN2, EN3)
- Henley on the 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 apologized for the inconvenience to customers in a message on its website, adding that it would prioritize delivery of coronavirus vaccination letters and test kits.
The company said it aims to deliver at least every other day to affected areas, although this is not always possible in offices that have been temporarily disrupted due to high absence rates.
So far, 15 service alerts have been issued by Royal Mail in July, compared to just four in the entire month of June.
Services at Yate, Ivybridge and Hythe, all of which were hit by staff shortages earlier this month, are now back to normal.
In a statement, the company said, “Due to resource issues, self-isolation and associated security measures, deliveries to some areas may be disrupted this week.
“We aim to deliver at least every other day to these areas, although this is not always possible in offices temporarily affected by very high absence rates.
“We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.
“We are working hard to provide as comprehensive a service as possible with the resources available. And we’re making sure to prioritize the delivery of vaccination letters and Covid-19 test kits. “
Who is exempt from self-isolation?
Postal workers are the latest to be affected by the so-called ‘pingemia’ which has seen workers across the country self-quarantine at home after being ‘pinged’ by the Covid app.
Over 520,000 self-isolation alerts were sent to app users in the week to July 7, up 46% from the previous week.
At least half a dozen industry organizations across healthcare, transportation, retail and manufacturing have warned of staff shortages caused by the alerts, with some companies losing 20% of their workforce .
The bosses of Iceland and M&S have warned of store closings and reduced hours due to the volume of staff self-isolation, while pub chains have been forced to close some branches.
The Prime Minister has now announced that some workers will be exempt from quarantine if they are ‘pinged’ by the NHS Track and Trace app, after being pressured into the so-called ‘pingdemic’.
Boris Johnson said a “small number” of key workers who have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be released from isolation rules if contacted by the app, including factory staff food, transport, national security, police, military and NHS staff and social workers, among others.
Workers who qualify will still need to test negative for Covid-19 in order to be able to get to 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 write to employers to explain their next steps.
Individuals who do not qualify for the exemption must continue to self-isolate if contacted by the app.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.