Farmers, farmworkers and vets have been included on a list of key workers whose children can still go to school amid the coronavirus crisis.
The Department for Education (DfE) revealed its list of key workers on Friday (20 March). The list includes professions that are considered as vital to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Farmers, farmworkers and vets were included in a section called “Food and other necessary goods”.
It reads: “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).”
However, the DfE says parents working in key sectors may be able to keep their child at home. It advises: “If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.”
NFU president Minette Batters revealed on her Twitter page on Thursday (19 March) that she had been given assurances that farmers and farmworkers would be added to the list.
The DfE announcement has been welcomed by the farming and veterinary industries.
— Manor Farm Surrey (@ManorFarmWotton) March 19, 2020
Some pointed out the irony of farmers and farmworkers being catapulted in just two weeks from “unskilled workers” in the government’s post-Brexit immigration list to “key workers” in the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The critical importance of domestic food security has hit home over the past 10 days as shoppers have gone against government advice not to panic buy and cleared supermarket shelves of food and home essentials.
The government has repeatedly said there will be enough food for everyone if people buy only what they need.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced school closures across the UK from Friday (20 March) until further notice for all, except key workers’ children and the most vulnerable.
Although Mr Johnson maintained that children are safe at school, the closures would help slow the spread of the virus.
The list also includes workers in frontline professions responding to the crisis, including NHS staff, care workers and police officers.
Competition laws relaxed
Meanwhile, Defra has announced that competition laws will be relaxed to allow rival supermarkets to work together on the coronavirus response as they struggle to cope with panic buying.
The move allows retailers to share data with each other on stock levels, cooperate to keep shops open, or share distribution depots and delivery vans. It would also allow retailers to pool staff to help meet demand.
Defra secretary George Eustice confirmed elements of the law would be temporarily waived in a meeting on Thursday afternoon with chief executives from the UK’s leading supermarkets and food industry representatives.
The government has also temporarily relaxed rules around drivers’ hours, so retailers can deliver more food to stores, and is waiving the 5p plastic bag charge for online purchases to speed up deliveries.
The government says it will “do whatever it takes” to ensure people have the food they need.