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5 March 2020

COVID-19 Update for United Fresh Members

Update 5th March 2020


We are all very concerned about the potential impact  COVID-19 could have on our businesses. The purpose of this update is to distil the key messages of what we need to consider.

The science relating to the virus and its effects is still being collected, uninformed speculation is rife and there is naturally a high level of concern in the community.

This update does not address the internal business decisions we will all need to make rather to try and provide the key messages and identify fact-based sources of information.

The critical messages we need to pass to staff are:

Prevention
Everyone needs to take some simple steps to help stop the spread of any disease including COVID-19. We know that many staff members may not fully understand that the fresh produce industry is part of the food industry. This means they may not be as vigilant with effective hand hygiene practices.  

Similarly, many consider the use of disposable gloves as a failsafe solution which they are not. Effective hand washing practices need to be practiced even if gloves are used. 

Preventative measures:

  • Avoid close contact with people with cold or flu-like illnesses.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing. (or sneeze into your elbow)
  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and dry them thoroughly: 

Hand washing should occur after the following:

  • Before eating or handling food
  • After using the toilet
  • After coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
  • After caring for sick people.

If the person has any symptoms and are unwell then they need to stay home and seek assistance via the COVID-19 hot line (see below).  

Download the Prevention and Handwashing Poster here.
Download the Travel and COVID-19 Symptom Information Poster here.

Symptoms 
People who have developed symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath must stay at home and seek medical advice by first phoning Healthline’s dedicated COVID-19 number 0800 358 5453 or contact your GP, including phoning ahead of your visit.

Carriers without symptoms
It is as yet unknown how common it may be for people to become infected with symptoms too mild to seek treatment. Currently, detection is based on molecular testing, which is performed only on individuals who are in contact with the healthcare system. The prevalence of such mild or asymptomatic infections won't be known until an inexpensive blood test, detecting antibodies to the virus that signal previous exposure, is available. 

Self-Isolation
Self-Isolation is an important tool if there is a real risk a person has had direct exposure to someone with COVID-19 (corona virus) i.e. been within 1 metre of an infected person for over 15 minutes. 
 
This means situations where you may come in close contact with others. Examples are social gatherings, work, school, childcare/pre-school centres, university, polytechnic and other education providers, faith-based gatherings, aged care and health care facilities, prisons, sports gatherings, restaurants and all public gatherings.
 
United Fresh Response
From a business viewpoint we all need to be putting risk management plans in place reviewing our sick leave polices and communicating these with staff and service providers including regular contractors and visitors (especially those that have been visiting multiple sites).

United Fresh will now commence updates on COVID-19 relevant to the fresh produce industry. We have produced a poster for information on travel and handwashing to assist members to communicate with staff (attached).

Sources of Factual Information 
We have compiled New Zealand and International fact-based information and resources to help with contingency planning. The MBIE web site is useful from a business viewpoint, the Health Department from a health viewpoint.

https://www.mbie.govt.nz/about/open-government-and-official-information/coronavirus-covid-19/
https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-resources

In addition, Employers and Manufacturers association members can join a Facebook chat group for businesses who are developing preparedness plans.
https://www.ema.co.nz/newsandmedia/news/Pages/Obligations-for-Employers-to-manage-Novel-Coronavirus.aspx
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html
https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/85165