Following the UK Government’s announcement yesterday about its plans for the final lifting of COVID restrictions, I want to update you on our plans at Greencore.
The final step of the Government plan, which will be effective from Monday 19 July, is approaching fast. This is when they will relax COVID legislation and the centralised decision making that has been in place during the pandemic. From this date, it will be the responsibility of all of us as individuals, and for us as a business at Greencore, to make the right decisions to control any further spread of the virus.
Our plan of action
As a result, we have decided that:
- We will keep all current COVID controls in place after 19 July (e.g. social distancing, mask-wearing, screens etc) and will delay until 6 September 2021
- We will delay our return to office plans for colleagues working from home, until 6 September
- Previous advice and guidance regarding lateral flow testing will remain.
We believe that taking these precautions will provide us with some stability and support while we go through the periods of large COVID cases and isolations that are expected over the next few weeks. I understand this news will be difficult for some colleagues and reassuring for others – we believe they are steps we need to take to continue protecting our people and keeping our sites operational.
Facts and considerations – Why has this decision been made?
As we have done since the beginning of the pandemic, we will always make our decisions based on our three priorities:
- Keeping our People Safe
- Keeping Britain Fed
- Protecting our Business
I want to give you some key facts that have helped to inform these decisions:
- The number of positive COVID cases and isolations occurring every day in the UK is rapidly increasing – daily numbers are doubling every nine days. Some of our sites are located in the areas with the biggest number of positive cases
- Scientific modelling indicates that between now and 19 July there will be 500,000 new cases of the virus. This could increase to 100,000 new cases every day, resulting in millions of people – those who test positive and others who have to self-isolate as a result of this – having to take time off work
- Modelling estimates that cases will peak in late summer and then reduce in the autumn
- The information we have collected from colleagues about who has been vaccinated indicates that there are a number of our sites where this figure is low. This increases the risk of everyone at these sites being more exposed to the virus
- The Government’s rules on isolation, where anyone who has had two vaccinations or is under 18 won’t need to isolate if identified as close contact, will not be changing until 16 August
- Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive have not yet changed their strategy regarding outbreak management
- We have consulted with many other food manufacturing and distribution businesses to understand what approach they are taking – we are taking a consistent approach with the rest of the industry
We believe that taking into consideration all of the above, there are likely to be several short term challenges which will be even worse if all restrictions are lifted in our manufacturing and distribution sites. These challenges include increased COVID exposure to non-vaccinated colleagues, high rates of absence due to increased requirements to self-isolate and uncertainty about the legal framework/outbreak response.
We will use data we have on the number of colleagues who have been vaccinated at each site to guide our decisions on when COVID controls will be removed. So far only 41% of colleagues have informed us about their vaccine status.
To ensure the information we currently have is accurate, our site teams will be doing more work to confirm the numbers of colleagues who have been vaccinated and gain a better understanding of those who do not intend to have the vaccine. The only reason we are asking colleagues to provide this information is to ensure we can remove COVID controls in an informed way.
Thank you for your continued support in these challenging times. If you are finding things difficult or are worried about what our updated plans mean for you, please speak to your manager. Or if you prefer, you can use Talk2Us, our peer-to-peer support service on 01246 385290 or email Talk2Us@greencore.com or contact our charity partner, GroceryAid on their free, confidential helpline on 08088 021 122.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. We will continue to regularly review our approach to COVID controls and will keep you updated if and when there are any changes to our current plan.
Director of HSE – Group