Bin collectors, prison staff and those working in defence will be able to take daily tests rather than self-isolating if they come into contact with someone who has coronavirus, the Government has announced.
More key workers will be eligible for the scheme under the plans, with 1,200 new workplace sites introduced in a bid to avoid disruption to crucial services as cases soar.
They join those working in the food industry, transport workers, Border Force staff, frontline police and fire services, after several sectors warned of staff shortages caused by the “pingdemic”.
The announcement of more testing sites, which brings the total number to 2,000, comes after ministers on the Covid operations sub-committee of Cabinet met on Monday.
The scheme uses lateral flow tests to allow eligible workers who have been pinged by the app or called by NHS Test and Trace to continue working, provided they test negative each day.
The Government said people working in energy, pharmaceuticals, telecoms, chemicals, communications, water, space, fish, veterinary medicine and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will also now be prioritised.
The vast number of people self-isolating after being advised to by the NHS app has been fuelled by the high numbers of coronavirus infections that have swept the nation as the Delta variant thrived and restrictions were eased.
The scale of the issue was shown by figures stating more than 600,000 people in England and Wales were told to quarantine by the NHS Covid-19 app in the week to July 14.
Ministers have so far resisted pressure from business leaders and some senior Conservative MPs to bring forward the wider relaxation of isolation rules for all fully-vaccinated people in England from August 16.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Whether it’s prison guards reporting for duty, waste collectors keeping our streets clean or workers in our energy sector keeping the lights on, critical workers have been there for us at every stage of this global pandemic.
“As we learn to live with the virus, we will keep doing everything in our power to break chains of transmission and stop this virus in its tracks.
“Daily contact testing will play a vital role in this, helping minimise the potential for disruption caused by rising cases, while keeping staff protected.”