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COVID-19 and what we can do now

In Italy authorities are struggling to bring the number of COVID-19 cases under control and have started to put together significant levels of support for Italian Industry with special focus on the food sector.

To try and contain the spread of the virus, Italian authorities have locked down entire towns, closing businesses, schools and universities and Prime Minster Conte announced emergency plans to quarantine the worst affected areas with travel in and out.

With the food industry being such a key contributor to Italy’s GDP, the impact of shutdowns could have significant economic impact on the country.

Emergency financial packages are being put together to support Food Manufacturing across Italy with even companies as big as Unilever having to close its plant in Casalpusterlengo after a worker at the site tested positive for COVID-19.

So, the question that's facing food production companies in London and across the UK, is what's next for us? What steps may be imposed on us? What financial packages could be made available? And what can we do now to minimise the risk in our own workplaces?

Well, as background, Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to the more serious Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus. The new strain of this virus, COVID-19 has not been seen in humans before.

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, breathing difficulties and shortness of breath, coughing and in some severe cases the infection has been known to cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.

As food production businesses we can start to prepare ourselves by taking sensible precautions.

So far, there are no reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging, however, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.

Facemasks (though not currently enforced) and frequent handwashing routines are our additional recommendations for those working together in confined spaces.

The World Health Organization (WHO) at the time of this article being published advises people to:

  • wash hands regularly

  • cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing

  • thoroughly cook meat and eggs

  • avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing

Good hygiene and sanitation are important to avoid cross contamination between raw or undercooked foods and cooked or ready to eat foods in the kitchen as we all know, but right now, maintaining these hygiene standards could be more significant than ever.

As an added precaution, if you have suspected symptoms of respiratory illness you should avoid preparing food for other people and seek medical attention.

It’s business as usual in London right now and we will keep you posted on any developments specifically relevant to our industry, including any financial packages that could be made available to food business SME’s.

For more information and updates about what's happening and what actions to take, visit the UK GOV Website Here.

Image credit:- michael-amadeus

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