face mask coronavirus shopper

Food bosses have called for clarity over how requirements will change as ministers prepare to announce the scrapping of coronavirus testing and self isolation measures.

Prime minister Boris Johnson will today outline England’s strategy for “living with Covid”. He is expected to scale back testing provisions and scrap legal requirements for self isolation following a positive test.

Sources told The Grocer there had so far been “no official confirmation” from Defra over how the lifting of restrictions would affect them.

It follows recent criticism of the government over the confusion surrounding its pledge to prioritise daily tests for 100,000 workers in “critical services” including food and drink.

“So far despite the usual leaks in advance of policy announcement we have heard nothing whatsoever about how the requirements for the industry will change,” said a source.

The industry ‘war room’, which was reconvened at the start of the Omicron crisis, has not held any meetings since January.

Meanwhile, retailers in Scotland have urged first minister Nicola Sturgeon to clarify when restrictions will be reduced north of the border.

The Scottish Retail Consortium called for a timeline on rescinding the regulations and statutory guidance affecting shops on the use of plastic screens and barriers, physical distancing in queues and floor markings.

It also urged clarity regarding the future statutory requirement for customers to wear face coverings in stores, and called on Scottish ministers to back a “concerted effort and an upbeat message” to encourage and entice people back to city centres.

The SRC said the pandemic and government restrictions had taken a heavy toll on Scotland’s retail sector. Last month it published estimates showing that Scotland’s shops had missed out on £5.8bn of sales during the past two years.

In Scotland, regulations affecting retailers on physical distancing and up to 50 other mitigations and measures became legally enforceable on 17 December. The wearing of face coverings in stores has been mandated since 10 July 2020, but has ended in Northern Ireland and England and is ending in Wales next month.

“Strong progress has been made in battling the pandemic,” said David Lonsdale, SRC director.

“As we move towards a new phase in dealing with Covid, the SRC is looking for a timeframe for ending the remaining restrictions that shops must follow, including such things as the installing of Perspex screens, maintaining physical distancing in queueing and floor markings. Many shops are still trying to find their feet after 23 months of complying with Covid restrictions, with an inevitable impact on shopper footfall and sales, and would welcome early visibility over plans to remove these final curbs.

“Over and above this we need to see a concerted plan with a more upbeat message to encourage and entice shoppers back to our city centres. The rescinding of restrictions provides a timely opportunity to breathe life back into city centre retailing, which has been hit especially hard by the exodus of office workers and tourists during the pandemic.”