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The government has released more details about which fully-vaccinated workers may be exempt from isolation if they are told to quarantine after coming into contact with a positive COVID case.

On Thursday evening, the government published a list of 16 sectors which the new guidance of completing daily coronavirus tests rather than quarantining would apply to.

These included energy, civil nuclear, digital infrastructure, food production and supply, waste, water, veterinary medicines, essential chemicals, essential transport, medicines, medical devices, clinical consumable supplies, emergency services, border control, essential defence outputs, and local government.

Lydia Newhall, a trainee biomedical scientist (BMS) in pathology, prepares Covid-19 tests for analysis in the laboratory at Whiston Hospital in Merseyside.
Laboratory staff – particularly those working with medicines – are among those allowed to be exempt from isolation rules

Now, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has expanded on this further, outlining the positions the exemptions would apply to.

DEFRA says the exemptions would be “subject to all other mitigation options being exhausted”.

The roles include:

Agri-food chain:

• Manufacturing maintenance engineers, quality assurance technicians, and highly skilled supervisors

• Specialist reach truck drivers – only where the use of this type of truck is essential in the movement of critical goods

• Official vets, meat hygiene inspectors, poultry health inspectors, environmental health officers and certifying support officers necessary for preventing immediate risk to food safety or animal welfare in processing plants


• Staff essential to the removal and processing of healthcare, hazardous, or municipal waste

• Staff essential to the running of incineration plants

• Landfill operators

Water and wastewater:

• Water engineers, staff/contractors working on repair of mains/supply interruption, chemical and technical specialists, emergency response practitioners, and control room staff whose immediate attendance at work is essential to maintaining critical services

Veterinary medicines:

• Batch testing laboratory staff and qualified persons essential to the batch release of medicines

• Laboratory staff essential to the production of veterinary medicines

Incident response and prevention:

• Government vets and official veterinarians responding to animal disease outbreaks or cases of serious animal health/welfare concern

• Environment agency staff operating the Thames Barrier and other critical flood defence assets, and environment agency staff on response teams in regional areas across the country to ensure effective protection of life and property in the event of a flood or other major incident

• Navigation authority staff whose roles/tasks include essential maintenance on assets with high consequence of failure and/or essential health and safety activity which mitigates risk of loss of life

Flood defences, like this temporary one on the River Severn, are a type of climate change adaptation
Environment agency staff who manage critical flood defences are also part of the new testing scheme

Those who work in the roles above will be able to leave their COVID-19 isolation to travel to work and do their jobs after a negative daily test but must remain at home otherwise and go straight into quarantine if they receive a positive result.

It will only apply to workers who are fully vaccinated – and 14 days after their second coronavirus jab.

Earlier in the week the government said the exemptions would only be open to a “limited number of named workers” in critical services and would run until 16 August.

This is when a wider relaxation for fully vaccinated contacts is set to take effect.

Workers have also been warned they will only be exempt if their employer has received a letter from the government on which their name is listed.

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Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government is ‘very concerned’ about the ‘pingdemic’ situation, but the list of exempt workers will be ‘quite narrow’.

The guidance published on Thursday evening stressed the process “will not cover all or in most cases even the majority of workers in critical sectors”.

It added that those identified as close contacts of a positive case of the virus should only go to work if their absence would lead to the “loss or compromise” of “critical elements of national infrastructure”.

If employers believe the absence of their staff would have this impact they are advised to contact the relevant government department.

Also on Thursday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitted the government is “very concerned” about the numbers of people being pinged by the NHS app.

His comments come as retailers warn they are under “increasing pressure” to keep shelves fully stocked amid staff shortages caused by the “pingdemic”.

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How Beth Rigby prepared a ‘narrative’ for Starmer and Sunak grilling – and why an early jog almost ruined everything




How Beth Rigby prepared a 'narrative' for Starmer and Sunak grilling - and why an early jog almost ruined everything

Beth Rigby has revealed how she decided on a “narrative” before quizzing the Labour and Tory leaders at Sky News’s special event – and how a morning run almost scuppered everything.

Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak took turns for a 45-minute grilling at Sky News’ Battle For Number 10 in Grimsby, with questions coming from a representative audience.

First to interrogate both leaders was political editor Rigby, who has lifted the lid on what it’s like to prepare, execute (and almost miss) the big event.

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“Kay Burley told me when I first came into telly ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’,” she told former Labour MP Margaret Hodge on the Electoral Dysfunction podcast.

“So, I took these two mottos into this very intense interview prep… you get loads of information and you start to try and work out what’s the narrative that you want to tell.”

The secret, she said, is to look at everything and then “distill it” until you have a clear “narrative arc”.

“With Starmer, the thing really was – how can you trust this guy? That was the premise,” she said.

“But for Sunak, it was like, you say you’ve got a clear plan, you say you’re going to deliver… so, what’s the Conservative record? But more importantly, what’s your record?

“Because you’ve actually been prime minister. You made five pledges, and then there was a broader question about what were the betrayals to the British people.”

Sir Keir Starmer leaders' debate
Beth Rigby in action

Read more:
How the Sky News event unfolded online
What we learnt at leaders’ event

But disaster almost struck before the event had even started.

“The night before, I woke up at, like, five in the morning, fully awake,” she said, adding she could “feel the adrenaline”.

So, she decided to go for a run.

“I just saw I’m coming to the end of the road. And I went to turn round, and, as I turned, I nearly ran into a moving car. So, I nearly got run over,” she explained.

Not the kind of car crash anyone would have expected that day.

Email the team, post on X to @BethRigby, or send a WhatsApp voice note on 07934 200 444.

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General election: The Conservative candidates ditching the Tory brand




General election: The Conservative candidates ditching the Tory brand

How bad is the Conservative brand? 

Bad enough for dozens of its own candidates to avoid using it, according to research from Sky’s Online Campaign Team and Who Targets Me.

We looked at the adverts published on Facebook and Instagram by 521 Labour and Conservative candidates from 1 May until 12 June.

Of these, 376 adverts contained official branding (logos and colours), 104 had some form of partial branding, and 41 had no branding at all.

And the vast majority of those with no branding – 38 – were Conservative.

Of the 80 Conservative candidates who had partial branding, 59 (73%) only mentioned the party in the funding disclosure – where they were legally obliged to do so. They did not mention the party anywhere else in the text of the advert, or on the visuals if the advert was an image (no videos were watched).

Of the 19 Labour candidates, all mentioned the party in the written text above the advert, as well as in the funding declaration.

More on General Election 2024

Most Labour candidates’ adverts are plastered in party branding.

But for a number of Conservatives, it’s hard to tell at a glance that they’re Conservatives.

That includes several prominent figures, including veterans’ ministers Johnny Mercer, defence secretary Grant Shapps, and former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

The online adverts are the quantifiable aspect of a trend that, anecdotally, appears to be the case on the ground too.

Johnny Mercer completely avoids Conservative branding in his election leaflets. The reverse page mentions the party in small text and in brackets as part of the funding disclosure, where candidates are, again, legally obliged to.

A leaflet from Johnny Mercer
A leaflet from Johnny Mercer

And Andrea Jenkyns, first elected as a Conservative MP in 2015 and a former minister, does at least paint her leaflet in true blue.

But the first picture is of her posing with the leader of another party entirely – Nigel Farage.

It’s an unconventional strategy.

Speaking on Friday morning, Treasury minister Bim Afolami refused to be drawn on it.

“All candidates are fighting their own seats,” he told Sky News. “I am not going to comment on Andrea or anyone else, it’s up to her how she wants to appeal to her electorate.”

A leaflet from Andrea Jenkyns, featuring Nigel Farage
A leaflet from Andrea Jenkyns, featuring Nigel Farage

It is, however, worth stressing that the majority of Conservative candidates are using party branding.

But a significant number think they’re better off without it.

Or better off with Nigel Farage.

Note: Sky’s Online Campaign Team examined the branding on all political adverts from the main parties. Of the top advertising spenders, only 16 of them were either Lib Dem, Green, Reform or Sinn Fein. All were fully branded, except for one advert by Michelle O’Neill, vice president of Sinn Fein, which was partly branded.

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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Reform UK overtakes Conservatives in new poll in fresh blow for Rishi Sunak




Reform UK overtakes Conservatives in new poll in fresh blow for Rishi Sunak

Nigel Farage has declared Reform UK “the opposition to Labour” after his party overtook the Tories for the first time in a new poll.

In a fresh blow to embattled Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a survey by YouGov for The Times put Reform UK at 19%, compared to the Conservatives at 18%.

Seven-way TV debate taking place – follow live analysis

The results came out moments before an ITV debate between senior figures in the seven main parties.

Mr Farage wasted no time in gloating about the poll, saying in his opening statement: “Just before we came on air we overtook the Conservatives in the national opinion polls.

“We are now the opposition to Labour.”

In a flip of Conservative campaign rhetoric, he also claimed that voting for the Tories over Reform would enable a Labour government.

More on Conservatives

When given the chance to ask another of the panellists a question, Mr Farage took aim at Conservative frontbencher Penny Mordaunt, pointing to rising net migration despite Tory promises to control it.

“Why on earth should anybody believe the fifth manifesto that promises cuts to net migration?” he asked.

Ms Mordaunt was laughed at by the audience as she replied: “Because of the record of this prime minister.”

She warned: “Nigel is a Labour enabler. He is enabling no cap, no target, and no plan.”

But Mr Farage responded that he did not believe Ms Mordaunt, adding: “As for being a Labour enabler, we are now ahead of you in the national polls. A vote for you is actually now a vote for Labour.”

The poll was carried out after Mr Sunak unveiled a £17bn package of tax cuts in the Conservative manifesto earlier this week.

It shows Reform up two points, with Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens all down one.

The full results are:

Labour: 37% (-1)
Reform: 19% (+2)
Conservatives: 18% (nc)
Lib Dems: 14% (-1)
Green Party: 7% (-1)
SNP: 3% (+1)
Plaid Cymru: 1% (nc)
Other: 2% (+1)

Farage wastes no time in gloating at poll breakthrough

Jon Craig - Chief political correspondent

Jon Craig

Chief political correspondent


The opening statements in the ITV leaders’ debate may have been extremely brief, but they spoke volumes.

Predictably, Nigel Farage wasted no time in gloating about the shock opinion poll minutes before the start which put Reform UK ahead of the Conservatives.

“We are now the opposition to Labour,” he declared, in a boast that he has been wanting to trumpet at full volume for weeks as support for his party has risen gradually during the campaign.

And Penny Mordaunt served notice that she will go on the attack against Labour on tax in the debate, claiming she’ll talk about the Tories cutting taxes and Labour raising them.

The poll was conducted on a sample size of 2,211 adults in Britain between June 12 and 13.

Will Jennings, Sky News polling analyst, said the YouGov survey “represents a moment of huge danger to the Conservatives”.

“Because of the geography of their support, Reform are not projected to win many seats, but they could still cost the Conservatives wins in narrowly contested seats across the country,” he said.

“In many places this will make the difference between a constituency returning a Conservative or Labour MP.”

A Reform UK spokesperson said: “One poll does not make an election. However it is clear that the Tories are broken, just as they have broken the country.

“Right now, Labour will win, but Reform are the only real opposition.

“Those who are thinking of voting Conservative out of misplaced loyalty should think again. They can and should vote for a party with the energy and imagination to challenge a Labour hegemony.”

After announcing his shock return to frontline politics last week, Mr Farage made clear his plans to replace the Tories as the official opposition if Labour win the landslide the current polls are predicting.

He has ruled out striking a pact with the Conservatives after senior Tory Suella Braverman said her party should embrace the former UKIP leader on the grounds there was “not much difference really between him and many of the policies that we stand for”.

The poll is more bad news for Mr Sunak, who has struggled to make a comeback from his D-Day gaffe last week.

Read more from Sky News:
Tories promise 8,000 extra police officers to be funded by hiking cost of visas

Despite repeatedly apologising for skipping an international ceremony attended by the likes of US President Joe Biden to mark the allied landings, the prime minister has continued to face a backlash from rivals, veterans and some from within his own party.

Such was the extent of the furore that he was forced to quash rumours he could resign and acknowledge “people are frustrated with me” during the launch of his manifesto.

The policy document contained promises to make another 2p cut to national insurance (NI), a new tax break for pensioners and the abolishment of NI altogether for the self-employed.

But it has failed to shift the dial for Mr Sunak, who was already 20 points behind Labour when he made the decision to call the election for 4 July.

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