‘Pingdemic’: Iceland closes stores as M&S warns of reduced opening times – ‘panicking me’

TikTok user tries out 420 calorie Marks and Spencer pizza

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Just weeks after companies announced they were facing food shortages, supermarkets like Iceland have now had to close some of its supermarkets due to what is being dubbed the “pingdemic”. Marks and Spencer has also warned customers that if it sees staff shortages, it may have to change the opening hours of its stores.

Richard Walker, boss of Iceland, has said that more than one thousand of its workers have been “pinged” by the NHS track and trace app, meaning they have to stay off work.

Mr Walker told the BBC: “A number of stores have had to close and the concern is as this thing increases exponentially… it could get a lot worse a lot quicker.”

He added that the shortage amounts to around four percent of its workforce of 30,000 members of staff.

However this is the “highest since testing began”, according to Mr Walker.

It comes as more people than ever are being “pinged” by the NHS app that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Mr Walker went on: “We’ve never had to close a single shop and now we are having to reduce opening hours and close shops.

The affected stores have not yet been announced by the retailer.

Taking to Twitter to share their thoughts on the situation, customers were angry with the news.

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One person said: “I see Iceland closed a lot of stores. Just panicking me now.”

Another wrote: “I know it’s for the best but how much worse is it going to get.”

“We need to stop using the word pingdemic, the app is doing its job,” explained a third.

The news follows a warning by M&S that the retailer could be forced to reduce store hours and that shelves could be empty.

Steve Rowe, chief executive of M&S, said that staff shortages could result in reduced opening hours.

He told The Times: “Our Covid cases are roughly doubling every week and the pinging level is about three to one of Covid cases, so we’re seeing that growing exponentially.

“If there’s shortages we’ll have to manage it by changing hours of stores, reducing hours.”

Morrisons has also said it is experiencing a rise in cases and notifications from the app, but is managing to keep stores open at the moment.

A spokesperson said: “We provide guidance and support for colleagues who may need to self-isolate including sick pay and have Covid secure controls in place in all our stores to ensure we can continue to operate and keep them open.

“Throughout the whole of the pandemic, we have not been required to close a store.”

Last week the meat industry also warned that there could be shortages of foods like French-trimmed lamb chops due to them requiring more work from skilled butchers.

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) warned that some companies could be forced “to start shutting down production lines all together”.

As Covid cases continue to rise, a growing number of businesses are reporting disruption due to staff absences.

Mr Allen added: “As a result, companies are having to simplify down their range of products to compensate for key skills being removed from their production lines.

“If the UK workforce situation deteriorates further, companies will be forced to start shutting down production lines all together.”

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