Rapid Covid Test

Many food companies are still in the dark over which will receive support as part of the government’s pledge to provide food factories and distribution centres with thousands of daily Covid tests.

Sources involved in talks with the government this week told The Grocer it was still unclear which companies would receive help from the government, despite the PM announcing on Tuesday it would prioritise daily tests for 100,000 workers in “critical national services”.

The rollout of the government support is due to start from Monday and follows widespread shortages of lateral flow test kits across the UK.

However, one source said there was “huge confusion” over what the support actually involved.

“When the PM made this big announcement of help to keep the country running it sounded like this was something that would be up and running within hours,” the source said. “In fact it’s not going to start until next Monday at least, and businesses are desperately trying to work out what on earth it actually means.”

The Grocer revealed last month a raft of major food companies had relaunched mass testing at factories across the UK in a bid to cope with the Omicron surge.

It is understood the government has promised to contact companies directly to tell them if they will qualify for the latest support, with major food processors seen as the main target, but sources said it was unclear what categories of food would be included.

“A lot of companies are already doing testing because they see it as a way of stopping the spread of Omicron, but there are many companies who are not. There is an argument that the more you test, the more cases you are likely to find, and some companies may fear they could bring on their own workforce shortages.”

Another source involved in the talks said the government’s announcement was just a “soundbite”.

They added: “It made a good headline for the government to say it’s providing 100,000 tests, but the fact is this is pretty much a continuation of the situation with testing that there was before.

“A lot of businesses don’t want to get involved because they haven’t got the staff or the space to start testing at work and would rather people tested at home.”