COVID-19 Defra Update

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At this busy time, Government communications are increasing to ensure that stakeholders are aware of updated guidance. This is a summary of guidance to date, 25 March 2020.

If you have insights from a relevant sector send it to agrifoodchainengagement@defra.gov.uk

Latest guidance from Public Health England can be found here.

Guidance for food businesses on Coronavirus

New guidance for food businesses has been published today, 25 March 2020.

‘Stay at Home, Save Lives’ campaign

Following updated guidance on social distancing, the government last night launched an updated public information campaign, reminding people of the very limited circumstances that they should leave home in the current situation.

Assets for the ‘Stay at Home, Save Lives’ are now available to download online, including posters, digital screens, and social media resources.

We are encouraging all stakeholders use these assets and amplify the campaign as much as possible.

Seasonal workers roundtable

This afternoon (25 March), the Environment Secretary met with representatives from the farming industry to discuss the impact that the coronavirus could have on the availability on seasonal labour for agriculture, and solutions to possible labour shortages.

Speaking after the meeting, the Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

Our farmers are doing a fantastic job of feeding the nation during this immensely challenging time. I have been speaking with industry today and in the last week about the critically important issue of seasonal workers, who usually come from Europe to pick fruit and vegetables. We need to mobilise the British workforce to fill that gap and make sure our excellent fruit and vegetables are on people’s plates over the summer months. There are already brilliant recruitment efforts underway by industry and I would encourage as many people as possible to sign up. We will also be looking at other ways to make sure farmers have support they need ahead of the busy harvest months, while also keeping workers safe and protected.

Updated guidance: Further businesses and premises to close

The Government has updated its guidance for businesses as part of further social distancing measures.

Guidance on producing hand sanitiser and gel for coronavirus

HMRC has produced updated guidance to help businesses who produce – or would like to start producing – hand sanitiser and gel, including for licensed distillers and gin manufacturers.

A joint initiative between the government and Companies House will allow businesses to apply for a three-month extension for filing their accounts, allowing them to prioritise managing the impact of coronavirus.

As part of the agreed measures, while companies will still have to apply for the 3-month extension to be granted, those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete.

Guidance on how to apply for an extension can be found on gov.uk.

Coronavirus: Latest retailer activity

The British Retail Council (BRC) are providing a daily update on the actions taken by retailers to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In their latest update they have covered: new and further measures by supermarkets to support social distancing, measures to implement social distancing between staff members in offices and staff rooms, changes to opening hours to support NHS and emergency staff, and bonuses for workers.

Number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and risk in the UK

As of 9am on 24 March 2020, a total of 90,436 people have been tested, of which 82,359 were confirmed negative and 8,077 were confirmed positive. 422 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

Find out the risk level in the UK, what to do if you have symptoms, and what the government is doing about the virus.

New Coronavirus Information Service on Whatsapp

The government has today launched the Coronavirus Information Service, an automated ‘chatbot’ which will allow the public to get answers to the most common questions about coronavirus.

Gender pay gap

The Government Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have announced the suspension of the enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines for this reporting year, meaning that there will be no expectation on employers to report their data.

Six-month MOT exemption

The Department for Transport has announced that owners of cars, motorcycles, and vans which usually require an MOT test will be granted a six-month exemption from 30 March, enabling them to carry on with essential travel.

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