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
COVID-19 outbreaks in food businesses
Following several outbreaks at food production sites, the next iteration of PHE guidance for businesses (see this LINK for current guidance) is due to be updated shortly. It is expected to include more clarity on the processes to follow in an event of an outbreak of COVID-19. It will also be accompanied by two visual A4 posters which will be translated into nine different languages, and an A4 summary of standard operating procedures that can easily be translated into other languages with free to use the software.
The government has developed a one-page flow chart on the role of different agencies (e.g. PHE, FSA, HSE, Environmental Health) in the event of an outbreak.
COVID-19 - Local lockdowns
With the infection rate in Leicester falling, lockdown rules were relaxed on 18 July and the geographical scope was reduced. A further easing is planned for 24 July. However, foodservice and hospitality venues will remain closed for the moment, although the provision of takeaway and delivery services is still permitted.
The government has published a new ‘contain framework’ (see LINK) that outlines a four-tier classification system for each local authority on the risk level in their area, ranging from business as usual to a local lockdown being implemented.
Under the plans, local councils in England have been given new powers to close shops, cancel events and shut outdoor public spaces to manage local outbreaks of COVID-19. Announcing the plans, the Prime Minister said that the additional powers would allow local authorities “to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount".
COVID-19 - Working safely
The government has published updated information for workplaces in England. Until 1 August, people who can work from home should continue to do so. From 1 August, it will be at the discretion of employers as to how staff can continue working safely. See LINK.
Detailed updated guidance is expected. The current workplace guidance for offices is here (See LINK).
COVID-19 - Test and trace
PHE and the NHS are working to provide updated guidance on when people will need to self-isolate having encountered someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Clarification is being sought around guidance for people who may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive on multiple occasions during a day, but where none of the periods has been over 15 minutes (current guidance considers a close contact to involve contact of less than 2m for 15 minutes or more).
The test and trace service will evolve in the months ahead. In addition to the development of the tracing app, the government will look to provide information to businesses and individuals to help them manage their own risk. This will consider the demographic profile of individuals as well as their lifestyle and employment profile.
See this LINK for full details of how the Test and Trace works
See this LINK for guidance for NHS test and trace: workplace guidance
EU exit - Trade & Agriculture Commission
It is understood that part of the remit of the new Trade & Agriculture Commission (see LINK) will be monitoring of animal husbandry standards of trading partners. The commission will not look at food safety which is the responsibility of the Food Standards Agency.
EU Exit - UK Internal market
When the EU Exit transition period ends in December 2020, powers previously passed to the EU will return to the UK.
The UK government has therefore laid out plans to ensure that powers are operated in parallel, to support the functioning of the internal market. The plans – open for consultation for four weeks - are based upon two key principles:
- Mutual recognition – regulations in one home nation will be recognised across all others
- Non-discrimination – level playing field, so businesses can operate across the whole of the UK
There are around 150 powers that are moving from the EU to the UK. 70 are to be passed to the devolved administrations and 80 will stay in the UK
EU Exit - Border operating model
The food industry is working with Defra to obtain further clarity on the Border Operating Model (see LINK). This includes understanding the timescales for when documentation (e.g. Export Health Certificates) will be available and when the system will be tested.
ONS has reported that in April the number of employees in the UK remained stable at 34.3m (an employment rate of 61.5%). Unemployment likewise remained static at 1.4m (3.9%) but, again, the latest available data is for April – the full impact of Coronavirus may not be seen until subsequent months (See LINK).
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