Radfords packhouse

Staff across the fresh produce industry have been classified by the government as “key workers”, allowing them to keep their children in schools and childcare settings.

The government announced this week that schools would be closing, as it expanded social distancing measures in the wake of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

While welcomed as a step forward in combatting the spread of the virus, the decision left many working parents facing childcare problems.

In the fresh produce sector, there were major concerns that the closure of schools would result in a drop in staff numbers in vital operations, such as packing and delivery, which could in turn hit the supply of fruit and vegetables to supermarket shelves.

The Department for Education announced last night however, that any child of a parent involved in “food and other necessary goods” can remain in school, as per normal.

“This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines),” the DfE wrote.

It continued: “It is important to underline that schools, all childcare settings (including early years settings, childminders and providers of childcare for school-age children), colleges and other educational establishments, remain safe places for children.

“But the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.

“Schools, and all childcare providers, are therefore being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children - children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.”