The FTA has reassured UK businesses that the supply chain is capable of handling the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic but said it would take the support of government and a flexible approach to keep goods flowing.

“Logistics is one of the UK’s most flexible and adaptable industries,” explained policy director Elizabeth de Jong, “and is used to reacting to extreme disruption caused by environmental factors, fuel shortages and employment strikes.

"Our members are working closely with customers to keep things moving and the message is clear – there is plenty of everything the country needs to continue working and living, providing people do not panic buy. Logistics operates a very lean business model, with deliveries made “just in time” to keep prices as low as possible, but empty shelves does not mean that stock is not on its way.

“There are particular challenges posed by the potential of illness and self-isolation of workers within the supply chain, but our members are keen to reassure their customers that they will make every effort to ensure any disruption is minimised.

“Logistics is responsible for every item used in this country, from the food we eat to the manufacturing components industry relies upon and, as such, should be recognised as a critical emergency service and its workers given the same recognition as those working for the emergency services or in healthcare. It is vital that they have urgent access to healthcare, washing and toilet facilities and their children are able to attend school, so that the flow of goods can continue unchecked.”

de Jong added that logistics also needs government support for contingency plans to address driver shortages caused by sickness, as well as a lack of compliance testing resource to ensure that operators can continue to operate legally and effectively.

“There are still areas of ongoing regulation of our industry which require clarification, to ensure that businesses can continue to function efficiently and keep supplies moving," she said. "It is clear that we are facing unprecedented times, and additional financial support may be required for many businesses, particularly those that supply the tourism or hospitality sectors, in the very near future if the logistics sector is to survive.”

The overriding message from the logistics industry, de Jong concluded, is to try to maintain normal practices as much as possible: “Logistics can cope with the challenges of the pandemic, providing everyone maintains a balanced and sensible response to the situation. Our members are well prepared to keep goods and materials flowing to all areas of the UK’s economy, providing a pragmatic approach is maintained.”