IGD – Economics bulletin 5 January

Date : 05 January 2021

Your overview of political and economic news with a focus on the food and consumer goods industry, featuring the latest developments and guidance on COVID-19 and adapting to a new relationship with the EU.

National lockdown

Following a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions, the UK Chief Medical Officers recommended that the UK COVID-19 alert level move from level four to level five – meaning a "material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed” unless further action was taken.

Last night, the Prime Minister announced a new lockdown in England which will be reviewed on 15 February. The new lockdown, which is similar to the first lockdown last March, includes the following measures:

  • People are ordered to stay at home other than for limited exceptions, including food shopping, exercise and work that cannot be done at home
  • All schools and colleges to move to remote learning for the majority of students
  • To not meet other people, you do not live with socially
  • Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend work, school, college or university, and limit the time they spend outside the home
  • Avoiding car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble
  • Hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs to close; with the exception of providing food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery

Further updated guidance for businesses is expected to be published shortly.

New national restrictions were also announced in Scotland which will be reviewed at the end of January. All schools and colleges will move to online learning until 18 January in Wales. This follows the introduction of a lockdown on 20 December.

The Northern Ireland Executive has announced that it will move to put staying at home into regulations.

Trading

Following the announcement of the new national lockdown, there are reports of increased demand for online delivery slots.

IGD will continue to track changes in shopper behaviour in our ShopperVista research and will be measuring any current and planned shopper stockpiling.

The latest research from Kantar has revealed an 11.4% increase in grocery retail sales in the 12 weeks ending 27 December 2020. 

ShopperVista subscribers can now register for our Christmas Review webinar on 14 January. This will reveal the impact COVID-19 has had on Christmas celebrations and shopping behaviour.

Absence

Absence levels are reported to have increased significantly in recent weeks and are reaching levels in excess of 15% for some organisations in London and the South East, due to the new variant of COVID-19.

Mass testing

It is expected that the roll-out of mass testing will help to stop the spread of COVID-19 and reduce absence rates.

Following earlier pilots, Defra is working with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to start the controlled ramp-up phase of mass testing among 70 volunteer food and grocery manufacturers, in order to prove and refine the model before a wider roll-out later in January.

Defra is expected to reach out across the industry with more information on how to opt into the mass testing offer.

Pilots of serial testing in food manufacturing settings are also expected to begin soon to assess their effectiveness in preventing outbreaks. This will involve daily testing of low-risk contacts of those testing positive for COVID-19.

DHSC has published a list of private sector (non-NHS) providers who may be able to conduct tests for the presence of coronavirus.

Ports

Following the end of the transition period, UK borders and ports are reported to be running reasonably well, although it should be noted that freight volumes are currently low. The government will be monitoring flow at the borders as volumes increase in the coming weeks.

The government has announced the creation of 10 new testing locations to help hauliers obtain proof of a negative COVID-19 test before travelling to Kent.

EU Exit support for businesses

The UK government has issued guidance specifically for food and drink businesses.

IGD has also provided additional support to help businesses with EU Exit including an EU Exit Checklist.

Businesses may also wish to refer to the EU Exit Foodhub, an FAQ website for food and drink businesses

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