‘That’s a very bland answer!’ Eustice flounders as key worker self-isolation hole found

George Eustice grilled by Charlie Stayt over 'bland answer'

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BBC Breakfast’s Charlie Stayt grilled Environment Secretary George Eustice over the Government’s plans to allow key workers to be exempt from self-isolation if they are pinged by the NHS Test and Trace app. But during the interview, Mr Stayt attacked Mr Eusitce over a glaring practical problem with the new system as workplaces, like shops, would be required to send off documents or notice to the Government to approve self-isolation exemptions which the BBC presenter argues would take a significant period of time to fully process. Mr Eustice tried to tackle the question before Mr Stayt tore into the minister over his “bland answer”.

The Government announced exemptions for key workers who are required to self-isolate via the Test and Trace app in a bid to fill the gaps in key industries. 

Reports this week showed some retail stores were struggling to keep shelves stacked as a combination of HGV driver shortages and self-isolating staff meant goods were not being put out. 

The Government announced key sectors like energy, transport, and food manufacturing would fall under the temporary scheme over fears they could be disrupted. 

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Eustice discussed the new scheme and explained the Government has a “good relationship” with key sectors which will help them carry out the plans. 

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But Mr Stayt pointed out the scheme requires staff to be individually named and identified which will then be cross-checked with the Government’s files before an exemption could be granted. 

He explained: “When you say named individuals, it is literally that, it’s the name of the person you’ll send through.

“And someone in a government department somewhere will look at the individual’s name, will check their credentials, go through that system.

“And we know that it’s the middle of August and this whole system ends anyway.

“How long, if I write a letter today with the name of my employer who I think should be part of this scheme.

“So I write the letter today Friday, one of your departments gets the letter on Monday maybe.

“How quickly before that will be turned around and they check the name of the individual against the company records, against the job they do, write a letter back, when is the soonest as they would come?”

Mr Eustice attempted to skirt around the question and said simply the Government departments would make it work which Mr Stayt accused him of giving a very “bland answer”.

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Mr Stayt once more pushed for an answer to the practical problem and for the minister to provide a timeframe for the exemption. 

The frontbencher then explained there would be an “expedited” system where names would be given from certain sectors and admitted it was important the right checks, regardless of the time taken, were done. 

He added the system would only be in place for a short amount of time anyway and said he and the Government did not want key sectors to be dramatically hurt.

It is estimated around 10,000 workers will be eligible for the new scheme after over 600,000 people were pinged by the NHS Test and Trace app between July 8-15. 

Some businesses will also be able to introduce daily testing to replace self-isolation to ensure they can keep working. 

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