Military 'not needed now' for 'pingdemic' staff shortages support but 'always on standby'

23 July 2021, 13:49

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Environment Secretary George Eustice has told LBC 'there’s always a military contingency force that’s on stand-by at all times' but insisted it's not needed to deal with the 'pingdemic.'

After Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, Chair of the Commons Defence Committee called for a Cobra meeting and the use of the military to fill gaps in staff, Nick Ferrari questioned a government representative.

Nick Ferrari asked the Environment Secretary what he understood to be the "reality" of calling in the military.

The question comes after warnings some companies will still face staff shortages and lost revenue because of the number of workers having to self-isolate despite emergency measures to ease the 'pingdemic' crisis.

The Government has announced plans to allow firms in sectors including transport, energy, local councils and digital infrastructure to deploy the daily testing of workers as an alternative to self-isolation.

Mr Eustice was quick to say the military was not currently needed.

He told Nick Ferrari that the government has "taken the right steps now to ensure the food supply chain works."

Explaining that the government could not see a need to deploy the military "at the moment," he did assure LBC there was always that option.

"There’s always a military contingency force that’s on stand-by at all times, because if we have a flood event or another emergency of some sort, you always have to be able to call on them," he said.

On Thursday more than 10,000 critical workers in the food sector were told they would not need to quarantine if "pinged".

Pressure is mounting on the Government to bring forward the date at which people who are double vaccinated against coronavirus can avoid self-isolation as emergency measures to protect food supplies were launched on Thursday.

The move - along with a limited relaxation of self-isolation rules in other key sectors of the economy and vital public services - will see thousands of workers at up to 500 critical sites avoid the need to self-isolate if identified as a contact of a coronavirus case, and instead take daily Covid tests.

The need for urgent action was underlined as the latest figures showed a record number of people in England and Wales were "pinged" as contacts by the app and told to self-isolate for up to 10 days.

NHS figures show 618,903 alerts were sent to users of the coronavirus app in the week to July 14, a period before England's restrictions were lifted and more social contact was allowed.