Covid: List of jobs exempt from coronavirus self-isolation rules 'will be released today'

An updated version of this article, with the published list, is available here: Government releases list of sectors whose workers may be exempt from isolation

A list of jobs exempt from some coronavirus self-isolation rules will be released today, according to the business secretary - another U-turn from the government.

Kwasi Kwarteng said the government will be "publishing guidance today on who might be exempt" from quarantine if they've been pinged by the NHS Covid app.

"We're going to come up with guidance on specific sectors who may be exempt and that will come very soon, today," Mr Kwarteng told ITV News.

It's a shift in position from Tuesday, when Number 10 said no such list would be published because there would not be a "blanket exemption for any sector or role".

And businesses will not have to apply for their staff to be exempt, the minister said, despite Downing Street previously saying that would be the case.

Mr Kwarteng said he would not "pre-empt" the list when asked if the food industry would be on it but admitted to Sky News he is "very concerned" about reports of shortages on supermarket shelves.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the list would be published on Thursday. Credit: PA

He warned the list of those exempt from self-isolation would be "very narrow" and urged everyone to continue following advice from the app unless on the list.

"The rule is very clear, we should self-isolate. It's as simple as that. If you are pinged, you should self-isolate," he said.

"I'm not going to countenance people breaking the rules or anything like that. I think they should just follow them."

He said the requirement to self-isolate after being pinged will be removed for everyone on August 16.

The government may have been pushed into publishing a list of exemptions following warnings from the food industry.

"We need key worker exception for retail workers and HGV drivers " - Iceland CEO Richard Walker says retailers are "struggling to function" as he calls for government clarity on self-isolation rules

Iceland Managing director Richard Walker has urged the government to make retail staff exempt from self-isolation if pinged by the app.

He told ITV News around 1,000 staff off work for Covid-related reasons, 64% of which have been "pinged" by the app.

"We don't have time to wait for the government to sort out clarity on this policy and we're hiring 2,000 extra staff temporarily to cover the expected increase in shortfall of staff across our 30,000 store population," he said. "I would implore the government to act as quickly as possible. the government says it wants to make sure critical services can function. Well, Iceland is a critical service, and we're struggling to function at the moment. "That's why we need clarity and we need key worker exception for retail worker and HGV drivers around this self-isolation rules so we can get on with our critical job of feeding the nations."

He told shoppers there is no need to panic buy as "our supply chains are resilient", but added: "The people who should be panicking are the government."

There are widespread reports of other businesses facing staff shortages, with between 5% and 10% of staff within the British Meat Processor's Association off work after being pinged and dozens of councils in England have been forced to cancel bin collections due to a diminished work force.

Food wholesalers Bidfood chief executive Andrew Selley said his delivery drivers can continue working even if they've been pinged, so long as they have negative test results.

He defended his approach as "appropriate and safe" for the "critical workers".

Mr Kwarteng responded: "I would stick to the rules, which are very clear, which say that if you are pinged you should self-isolate."