Coronavirus updates

Update March 25:

Support for Foodservice:
Defra is looking at ways that spare capacity in foodservice wholesale might be used to help with increased demand for home deliveries and click and collect operations at retail during the lockdown, in particular the opportunities for businesses to redeploy staff to help with picking and deliveries, as an alternative to furlough, eg on an agency basis. Further details are being worked up by Defra and Local Authority resilience forums, on issues such as regulatory barriers and employment. The point was made that further details on furlough need to be published before supply chain businesses look to engage with such a plan.










• Financial support eg cashflow and credit insurance
Government response: HM Treasury is currently considering these issues and more support will be coming through from the Chancellor, particularly for those business with no access to government-backed loans. The issue of finance flowing back through the supply chain was raised by the group with officials
• Relaxation of Competition Laws

Government response: This is happening to allow businesses to talk to each other on issues such as deliveries, but not prices.
• Business rates exemptions
Government response: This is not regarded by HM Treasury as a solution at present
• Relaxation of labelling laws beyond consumer safety
Government response: This has been raised and the approach will be to limit bigger enforcement to allow opportunities in other channels
• Guidance on furlough
Government response: This is being prepared for publication
• Opportunity for capacity to be used eg NHS supply chain
Government response: see

Guidance for businesses

Government Action Plan

Action to support wholesalers:

FWD spoke to Defra Secretary of State George Eustice this afternoon about the challenges facing wholesalers. As a result of this the Secretary of State will be requesting the following help from HM Treasury for the wholesale sector:

  • Business Rates holiday
  • The measures announced for retail and hospitality to apply to wholesale
  • Payroll support
  • Underwriting of credit insurance for the wholesale channel
  • Support for customer debt resulting from Covid-19

Key worker status:

Key workers’ children will still attend school after they shut, allowing them to continue working. Defra has said key worker status will cover the food supply chain “in a general sense” and will include distribution. There won’t be a list of specific jobs, instead sectors will be identified with categories of jobs within them, and the it will be up to individual head teachers to operate discretion. The full list has yet to be published, believed to be due to a dispute in Government about which sectors should be included.

Driver Hours:

These have been relaxed for food, pharmacy and household product distribution until April 3


Public sector contracts:

After gathering responses from members we have demonstrated to Defra that these will not be fulfilled with substantial and immediate support for foodservice distributors, which led to the response from the Secretary of State outlined above.

School food

The Government has released guidance for the continuation of free school meals, which includes meals or vouchers for supermarkets and shops, at the schools’ discretion. FWD had discussions with  Department for Education on what would happen to wholesalers’ school food contracts following school closures. These are ongoing.

Vehicle Maintenance

The Department for Transport is considering temporary relief for MOTs and CPC year 5 renewals being extended to year 6, as well as relaxation on O licence requirements

Update March 16: 

FWD has been in regular contact with Defra, our wholesaler members and product suppliers. We are impressing on Government the need to support food and drink distributors as well as their foodservice customers.

Members are seeing a downturn in demand from foodservice customers, and a corresponding rise in sales into retailers.


Update March 13: Delay phase

The UK has now entered the Delay phase and anyone who is displaying symptoms of Covid-19, ie cough or fever, should now enter seven days of self-isolation.

Guidance for businesses is currently being updated and can be found here

Advice for individuals has been updated and can be found here


Latest Government actions include:

  • Preaparing voluntary protocols to allow the sharing of data to monitor food stocks.
  • The Department for Transport is considering lifting restrictions on drivers’ hours.
  • The Department of Health is drawing up advice on lifting 5p carrier bag charges
  • A team in BEIS has been created to respond to any Competition Law issues industry may have as a result of their plans to tackle the pandemic.
  • The Welsh Government is due to announce the lifting of parking restrictions in town centres to facilitate deliveries
  • The Scottish Government said it will take a “pragmatic approach on enforcement” on store opening hours and delivery times




Update March 11: 

A Bill will be brought forward by the Department of Health later this week giving the Government time-limited emergency powers to manage the virus, which will include provisions for data sharing in order to manage food supplies.

The waving of delivery curfews is expected for later today, and will cover noise restrictions as well as lifting local authority planning rules on timings. Discussion on driver hours are ongoing, with in principle agreement that this will happen, with a 30 day relaxation at first. Any agreement beyond 30 days has to be agreed by the EU.

As infections take 20 minutes to transfer for those within two metres, the Government says there shouldn’t be any issue for delivery drivers.

The Minister said the Government will be lifting local authority restrictions on night time deliveries where necessary, based on the model used for the 2012 London Olympics. This is due to be reviewed in “a week or so”.

The announcement follows last week’s call between the Environment Secretary and leading supermarkets, during which the industry said a relaxation of curfews would help retailers respond to the increased consumer demand for some products, namely hygiene products and a limited number of long life items.

Current rules mean that deliveries are prohibited overnight so that vehicles do not disturb residents. The government will temporarily relax the enforcement of restrictions to give greater flexibility.

These measures follow a further call between the Environment Secretary and leading representatives from across the food industry.

They are also looking at restrictions on working time directives on drivers hours, vehicle weights, and waving carrier bag charges (so contaminated bags are not brought into store) based on evidence, although they “are not at the point of making a decision” on these issues yet.

Update March 9: Changes to delivery restrictions

Defra Secretary of State George Eustice has said the Government is still in the Contain phase, but it is giving thought to moving to the Delay phase, although that point has not been reached. The Government is still looking to encourage self-isolation  over the period of escalation in the next weeks, and the Minister wanted to understand how the food supply chain could support this.


March 6: The Government’s recommended message to customers at present is that it is “business as usual” on supplies.

It is anticipated that reduced labour supply over the coming weeks will create supply bottlenecks, beyond imports from Italy and China on things like production, drivers and distribution. Plans are being drawn up by Government for contingencies around:

  • Relaxation of driver hours
  • Relaxtion of insurance
  • Relaxation certification eg official vets
  • Relaxation of labelling laws
  • Waving of Competition Law
  • Prioritisation of goods and customers eg public sector

Should any of these be introduced, sufficient lead time for businesses to respond would be factored in.

With regard to what members should do if a colleague contracts Covid19, the guidance is clear entirely shutting down operations is not recommended. In this scenario members should contact their Local Health Protection Team for advice. They will conduct interviews with other colleagues in contact with the person with Covid19. Most contact does not meet the significant contact criteria. Information can be found at section 11 here