Tesco is calling off face-to-face meetings with suppliers in a bid to protect against the spread of coronavirus.
In an email to suppliers today, the supermarket giant said it wanted to minimise human contact, amid fears the illness could see up to a fifth of staff at companies off sick when the outbreak reaches its peak.
The decision comes a day after the government announced new emergency powers to tackle the virus and try to stop the spread.
“Considering the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we want to update you on some of our plans and understand how you are managing the situation in your own business,” said the email.
“We have a dedicated team in place to monitor the situation carefully as it develops, and to mitigate any potential impact on our customers, colleagues and suppliers.
“As a precautionary measure, we would ask you to minimise visits to our offices and consider using other arrangements such as conference calls or telepresence, especially if: you have visited or have come into contact with someone who has visited China, Korea, Iran or Italy in the last six weeks, or are displaying cold and flu-like symptoms.”
Tesco also issued advice from health authorities to suppliers for those who had to make emergency visits to its offices.
It claimed the impact of the outbreak had been “minimal” so far but urged suppliers to come forward if it was likely availability could be hit longer term.
It comes amid reports of panic buying among customers and fear that food shortages will get worse if there is a major outbreak.
“We continue to serve our customers with good availability,” said the email. “Please make your buying manager aware of any lines that are already or could potentially be affected longer term, by 6 March, so that we can work together to mitigate this.”
Meanwhile, the FDF today announced its annual dinner planned for 19 March in London has been postponed until the autumn because of the virus.