Supermarket sweep: Sainsburys and Lidl share warnings amid pingdemic

·2-min read

Major UK supermarkets have admitted that shoppers will not see some products on the shelves as they grapple with staff shortages caused by the “pingdemic.”

Sainsburys and Lidl announced on Thursday that customers may struggle to find their favourite items.

But shoppers have been urged not to panic buy despite the problems caused by the NHS Covid app, which has forced thousands of workers across the country to self-isolate even if they’ve tested negative for the virus.

In a statement to the Mirror, Sainsburys said: “While we might not always have the exact product a customer is looking for, we’re delivering more products to stores every day and we are confident customers will find a suitable alternative.”

A man stands next to shelves empty of fresh meat in a supermarket in London (REUTERS)
A man stands next to shelves empty of fresh meat in a supermarket in London (REUTERS)

Lidl, meanwhile, also blamed the shortage on the “pingdemic” and said it was “becoming increasingly difficult” to deal with the lack of staff.

“Like all other retailers, the situation is becoming increasingly difficult as we have more and more colleagues having to self-isolate after being notified by the Track and Trace system.

“Whilst this is starting to have an impact on our operations, our teams are working hard to minimise any disruption to customers,” it said in a statement.

Other supermarkets have launched recruitment campaigns to keep stores open after having to temporarily close some branches because of the issue.

Iceland, for example, is looking to hire 2,000 temporary members of staff, while the Co-op is looking to take on another 3,000 workers.

Empty shelves in a Lidl in Durham (PA)
Empty shelves in a Lidl in Durham (PA)

The issue of shortages is not only affecting supermarkets - other retailers have also struggled with an estimated shortfall of 100,000 lorry drivers.

Although the lack of qualified drivers existed long before the app, bosses say the pingdemic has exacerbated the problem.

New figures released on Thursday reveal that a record 618,903 alerts were sent to users in England and Wales in the week to July 14, telling them they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.

Despite growing concern at the impact on food supplies and the wider economy, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has still urged people not to delete their NHS contact tracing app to avoid being “pinged”.

“We are going to announce a list of exempt workers,” he told Sky News.

“The list of exemptions will be quite narrow because obviously you have to draw the line somewhere and what we want to do is keep people safe and that is why we have the self-isolation policy in the first place,” he added.

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