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The SNP leader confirmed “limited” changes to self-isolation rules for Scotland to help key industries cope with significant staff shortages, as the country struggles with the so-called “pingdemic” crisis.
It follows the UK government’s announcement that firms in 16 sectors – including transport and energy – will be able to apply for special exemptions from self-isolation rules for some staff.
Mr Sturgeon said similar changes would be made in Scotland, with critical industries invited to apply to the Scottish government for staff to be exempt from the mandatory quarantine rules.
“However, this is a very limited change at this stage, to be applied on a case-by-case basis and only where absolutely necessary,” said the first minister on Friday.
If the Scottish government deems a critical role can be exempt, the worker will still have to prove they have had two doses of the vaccine, have a negative PCR test and agree to carry out lateral flow tests for 10 days after the contact.
“It is essential that lifeline services and critical national infrastructure are maintained and we are implementing these changes now … to ensure staff shortages do not put key services at risk,” said Ms Sturgeon.
The first minister added: “Applications for exemptions are being considered from today and we will consider applications as they come in.”
It comes as union chiefs and industry leaders criticised Boris Johnson’s government’s “confusing” plan to allow firms in critical sectors across England to deploy daily testing as an alternative to self-isolation.
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “The government needs to be clear about who it classes as critical workers. The current proposals don’t reflect the real world because businesses don’t exist in isolation – they are part of complex supply chains.”
UK environment secretary George Eustice made clear a new testing scheme set up specially for the food industry will allow around 10,000 warehouse and distribution workers to avoid quarantine – not supermarket store staff.
Some in the food industry complained that it was not yet clear exactly who would be able to access the “test and release” scheme. The British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) described the move as “worse than useless”.
Richard Harrow, the BFFF’s chief executive said: “Who is in and who is out, who decides and how do they decide?”