Due to the rapid increase in infections with the delta variant of the coronavirus, many retail employees have to go into quarantine. Especially in the UK, but also in the Netherlands, this leads to empty shelves and even store closures.
In the UK, there is already a specific term for it: the “pingdemic”, referring to the message that people receive (“ping”) on their smartphone via the app of the British NHS health service after having been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. Many drivers, workers and shop assistants have to stay at home for ten days as a precaution after such a contact, causing problems in the supply chain.
Marks & Spencer, Coop and Tesco, among others, have already announced that the forced quarantines could lead to empty shelves and store closures. Frozen food chain Iceland was the first British retailer to actually close stores, reports Charged Retail. Of the retailer’s 30,000 employees, around 1,000 are forced to stay at home in self-isolation, and the number is rising. At the urging of the employers, the British government is now looking at whether the rules can be relaxed for certain key sectors.
The problem does not only exist in Great Britain. In the Netherlands too, the number of infections with the delta variant is rising noticeably. Many retail chains have to deal with a structural shortage of people, says Jan Meerman of sector organisation INretail to Retailtrends. At online supermarket Picnic, ninety employees were in quarantine earlier this week. “That does affect us, fortunately because of the holiday season it is a little less busy”, co-owner Michiel Muller tells newspaper AD. No problems have been reported in Belgium for the time being.
Because Asia is also confronted with a new wave of infections, there is also a threat of supply problems for manufacturers. Nike has already announced that two of its main Vietnamese suppliers have closed their factories due to a peak in corona infections. It is possible that the brand will soon run out of shoes.