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Coronavirus (COVID-19) – update 22

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – update 22

23 Apr 2020

This update covers information on testing for frontline workers; best practice guidance – seasonal workers; new food redistribution guidance and links to emergency surplus food grants.

Thank you to those of you who contributed feedback for our submission to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into labour in the supply chain.

We are preparing a submission to the second EFRA inquiry and welcome your feedback:

Food supply chain issues during Coronavirus outbreak https://committees.parliament.uk/work/217/covid19-and-food-supply/

The second inquiry is looking into food supply during the Coronavirus pandemic, including how disruptions in the food supply chain should be managed. The Committee will initially identify current problems and strategies for mitigating potential risks.

The key questions raised by the Committee are:

  • Have the measures announced by the Government to mitigate the disruptions to the food supply chain caused by the pandemic been proportionate, effective and timely?
  • Are the Government and food industry doing enough to support people to access sufficient healthy food; and are any groups not having their needs met? If not, what further steps should the Government and food industry take
  • What further impacts could the current pandemic have on the food supply chain, or individual elements of it, in the short to medium-term and what steps do industry, consumers and the Government need to take to mitigate them?
  • How effectively has the Government worked with businesses and NGOs to share information on disruptions to the supply chain and other problems, and to develop and implement solutions? How effectively have these actions been communicated to the public?

Deadline for comments to sian@freshproduce.org.uk Tuesday 28 April.

Testing for frontline workers
Testing for COVID-19 is being extended to include additional frontline workers who are symptomatic, and members of their household who are symptomatic. This will allow frontline workers to return to work if they, or members of their household, test negative for coronavirus. You can find further information on who is eligible for testing on the Gov.UK page Coronavirus (COVID-19): getting tested.

Referral for testing will be soon available through a digital portal which will allow employers to refer their staff. Eligible individuals will also be able to use the portal to self-refer for a test.

Any employees who think they are eligible and need to be tested are being instructed to speak to their employer. As the employer, you will be provided with information on how to make an appointment either via your local resilience forum (where the local region chooses to organise testing in this way), via your national government department/agency, or direct from the Department of Health and Social Care. Any employer that has any queries should contact their local resilience forum, national government department/agency, or the Department of Health and Social Care on opshub@dhsc.gov.uk

An online registration form has been developed to enable speedy booking to get as many frontline workers tested as soon possible. This is a temporary facility and it will be replaced by a permanent digital booking system which will allow employees to book themselves a test. Once the permanent solution is ready, the link will be shared and communications updated to minimise confusion.

Ahead of the portal being rolled out, employees in England can still access testing. Employers can use the materials linked below to:

  • Refer their employee to a regional test centre
  • Take part in the home testing trial.

The materials also include contact details should you have any follow up questions. Click on each bullet point to access materials.

Referral to regional test centre

  • Coronavirus National Testing Programme Strategy Summary
  • Coronavirus Frontline Employer Briefing
  • Coronavirus Frontline Worker invitation template for your use

Home testing

  • Guidance for considering and accessing home testing currently
  • An initial process once the employer decides to offer this to their employees

Best Practice guidance – Seasonal Workers

Guidance on best practices to avoid spread of COVID-19 for seasonal workers on fruit and vegetable farms has been developed by industry and Government and endorsed by Public Health England. The guidance is available – click here.

Northern Ireland guidance for businesses
The Northern Ireland Office has updated guidance (click) for businesses and employers in Northern Ireland.

New food redistribution guidance

New guidance published by WRAP, Defra and the Food Standards Agency underlines the fact that food past its ‘Best Before’ date remains safe, and perfectly good to eat for days, weeks, months or even years after the date – depending on the type of food and if it has been stored correctly.

The guidance aims to increase the amount of food made available by businesses for redistribution by ensuring that all food items, either approaching or past the ‘Best Before’ date, are considered for redistribution – and that current policies that might not allow this are reviewed. Find out more here (click).

COVID-19 Emergency Surplus Food Grant

The £3mn emergency grant (click) to boost surplus food redistribution is still accepting applications. Phase 2 (click) is for micro-to-small-sized operations and is open until 4 June 2020. Phase 3 (click) focuses on medium-to-large-scale operations and closes on 21 May.

If you have any issues and queries please contact us.

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