IGD - Economics bulletin 30 September

Date : 29 September 2020

Your overview of political and economic news with a focus on the food and consumer goods industry, featuring the latest guidance on COVID-19 and planning for the end of the transition period with the EU.

Shopper stockpiling

In research conducted by IGD, 47% of shoppers claimed to have stockpiled or bought extra items over the weekend (25-27 September). This has increased from 39% recorded a few days earlier. This is still lower than the peaks recorded in April during the national lockdown (64%).

Claimed stockpiling is highest amongst younger adults (<35’s) and those with children, as well those living in London. Claimed stockpiling is highest for hand sanitiser, tins and packaged goods and toilet paper.

Outbreaks in food production facilities

There continue to be a relatively low number of COVID-19 outbreaks in food settings. However, there are ongoing reports of inconsistencies in how the outbreaks are being managed by local health protection teams across different regions.

This issue is being addressed by the cross-government task force set up to oversee the process for managing COVID-19 outbreaks in food production facilities.

A set of principles developed by this group to support the management of outbreaks and to avoid closures of food production facilities where possible is expected to be published soon.

Government officials continue to stress the importance of segmenting workers to ensure production sites remain operational in the event of an outbreak.

This task force continues to ensure any learnings from managing outbreaks are reflected in the guidance for food businesses.

New local lockdowns

New enhanced restrictions have been put in place in the North East of England preventing residents from mixing with people outside their household or bubble in indoor settings, including in pubs and restaurants.

The new restrictions in the North East relating to mixing with people from outside their household will be enforceable by law and subject to fines from Wednesday 30 September.

See LINK for further details.

It is estimated that around 16.6 million people are in some form of local lockdown in the UK. See LINK for the latest Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report.

Covid-19 testing and tracing

With demand for tests exceeding the available capacity, the government has announced how testing will be prioritised (see LINK). Defra has confirmed that in the event of an outbreak in a food setting workers will be prioritised, and officials continue to make the case for prioritising essential workers across the food industry for testing.

There have been more than 12 million downloads of the new NHS COVID-19 app (see LINK) and more than 1.3 million downloads of the Protect Scotland app (see LINK). Assurances are being sought to ensure that functionality of the different apps is synchronized to ensure operability in different home countries.

Absence rates

There are reports of a slight increase in absence rates in the last week. This has been linked to increasing infection rates and people self-isolating, as well as the impact of schools requiring pupils to self-isolate.

Absence rates had fallen from a peak of over 20% earlier this year to around 5% or lower.

EU exit

The final scheduled round of formal trade talks between the EU and UK began this week. Despite some reports that progress is being made, there are still a number of areas of disagreement.

More rounds of talks could be added, if needed. However, if the deal is to be in place when the implementation period ends on 31 December, the meeting of the European Council on 15 October is likely to be the last point at which it will be practical to give effect to any deal that emerges.

IGD continues to urge members to prepare for “no-deal”.

Sign up for the next IGD EU exit webinar on 8 October 2020 at 11:00 a.m. See LINK

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