People who work in the food industry have been classed as key workers and their children are exempt from the school closures, which come into force on Monday across the UK.
From Monday 23 March, all schools will be closed to most children in efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. Children classed as vulnerable, or those from families of key workers will still be able to attend schools, although if other arrangements are possible, parents have been urged to keep their children at home.
Farmers and those involved in the food supply chain have been classed as key workers, alongside medical professionals and carers, as well as those involved in key transport industries. The food supply chain has experienced unprecedented demand in the past fortnight as shoppers panic-buy food and other basic supplies.
An estimated extra £1bn worth of groceries has been bought in the past two weeks compared to the same period last year, according to Defra secretary of state George Eustice, who has urged shoppers to stop hoarding.
All the UK’s major retailers have reported unprecedented demand, and have been forced to introduce new opening hours, closing 24 hour stores overnight to allow for restocking. However, in many areas these measures have not been sufficient and shoppers have formed long queues before stores open, leaving shelves empty well before new deliveries arrive. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose have now been forced to dedicate certain hours to elderly and vulnerable shoppers to ensure they are able to buy the groceries they need.
Responding to the news that food producers will be classified as key workers, Robert Gooch, chief executive of the British Free Range Producers Association (BFREPA) said: “Free range egg producers and their staff are essential to the food production supply chain and it is right for Government to class them as essential workers, making it easier for them to arrange childcare through schools. This issue was causing acute concern for our members. It is our hope that today’s announcement should help producers to better manage their staff during this difficult period.”