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'Pingdemic crisis' may lead to bare shelves

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts (right) in his meeting yesterday with Economy Minister Gordon Lyons
Gary McDonald Business Editor

SOME shop shelves across the north could be lying bare within days - not because of Protocol issues but due to the so-called 'pingdemic crisis', a trade body claims.

For it has emerged that the situation is so bad in the warehouse of one large retailer, which supplies daily to more than 200 stores in Northern Ireland, that it is currently operating at vastly reduced capacity and may be forced to shut altogether.

“This pingdemic is now a fully grown economic crisis,” Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said yesterday after meeting economy minster Gordon Lyons.

“The situation getting worse on a daily basis, with serious staff shortages right across the supply chain.

“We are hearing from members who are on the verge of closing their stores and are running short on a number of product ranges.

“Many of these member stores provide food and other vital products to vulnerable and older members of our community, particularly in rural areas.”

Mr Roberts told Minister Lyons his members were seeking “an urgent and immediate response” from the Executive to the growing crisis - before shops close and product lines are restricted.

“We need the Executive to urgently allow ‘pinged' double vaccinated workers to take a PCR test, rather than self-isolation for ten days,” he added.

Hotels and restaurants also face a summer of closures after their workers were not included in quarantine exemptions applying to 16 industries where critical staff are excused from having to self-isolate if "pinged" by the NHS Covid app.

Hospitality chiefs said the sector would have to work with one hand tied behind its back while the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the impact on the sector might threaten domestic holidays in the UK this year.

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