The number of police officers off work in Britain’s biggest police force has reached record highs, due to the chaos of the pingdemic, as binmen are expected to be added to a list of works exempt from self-isolation.
Nearly one in five Met Police officers are currently absent from duty, at a time when there is increased pressure on police forces due to the lifting of all restrictions and the return of the nighttime economy.
Ministers will meet on Monday to discuss the expansion of daily contact testing to other key sectors, with Whitehall sources indicating that bin collection services are among those expected to be raised.
Supermarket depot staff have been given access to 500 sites in response to fears of food shortages, with the critical worker list expanding on Friday night to include train and lorry drivers, police officers and border officials.
A more limited relaxation of isolation rules has been announced for 16 other sectors of the economy, including transport, emergency services, the waste and water industry.
There are believed to be between 700-900 testing sites now coming online, enabling staff in these sectors to stay at work if they are identified as a contact of someone who has covid-19, providing they continue to produce negative lateral flow tests.
However, it is understood that Boris Johnson is pushing to more than double the number of sites in operation across the country to 2,000, meaning that more sectors can be added in the coming weeks to keep August 16 on track.
Why the NHS app pings some phones but not others
A meeting of the Covid operations Cabinet subcommittee will take place on Monday, during which the remaining sites will be allocated across Whitehall departments and sectors they represent.
The push to keep the economy moving comes after a week in which the number of people in self-isolation after being pinged by the NHS covid app hit a record 619,000 people.
‘Decommission’ the app
Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, has called for the app to be "decommissioned" once the pandemic subsides in an interview with this newspaper.
With staff absences rocketing, supermarkets have been forced to hire thousands of temporary staff, seven rail networks are set to impose emergency timetables, and energy companies have warned of delays to installing smart metres and routine appointments for repairs.
One of the worst affected services is the Red Funnel ferry, which travels from Southampton to the Isle of Wight, which has had to drastically cut the number of crossings it will make for two weeks after it lost 30 per cent of its workforce.
The Telegraph has also been told by two well-placed sources that 17 per cent of officers in the Metropolitan Police are currently off sick of self-isolating. The absence rate is believed to be the highest since the start of the pandemic.
Over half a million 'pinged' at start of July
Nationally, the figure is around 7.3 per cent, but the soaring staff absences in the country’s biggest force is a huge cause for concern given the unique role of the Met in policing the capital.
It is not clear how many of those who are off sick are actually ill or have simply been told to self-isolate after being pinged or contacted by the NHS track and trace.
Ken Marsh, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: "We are massively struggling and are not performing the role properly.
"We were not offered the jab and now we have got almost one in five officers off sick or self-isolating. It is coming home to roost and the Government is going to come unstuck."
Approached for comment, a spokesman for the Met said: “Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the Met is continuing to provide a resilient and strong policing service to London. We are not providing details on sickness or isolation.”
The Home Office pointed out that frontline police officers were among the latest list of exempt critical workers.