The World Health Organization has confirmed newspapers remain safe to read during the coronavirus pandemic.
The WHO has stated that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low, and therefore the risk of contracting COVID-19 through receipt of a printed paper is infinitely small.
The organisation had advised precautions such as washing hands remain essential to preventing the spread of the disease in any circumstance.
However, it stressed that “the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is low”.
Virologist George Lomonossoff, pictured, told BBC Radio Scotland: “Newspapers are pretty sterile because of the way they are printed and the process they’ve been through (to be produced).”
The UK government has committed to allowing news providers to stay open within new lockdown legislation and confirmed that journalists are recognised as key workers.
The newsagents’ trade body has welcomed a decision by regional publishers to join a home delivery scheme amid the coronavirus outbreak.
NFRN – The Federation of Independent Retailers has praised companies backing the Deliver My Newspaper home news delivery initiative.
Reach plc, JPIMedia and Newsquest are among those to support the scheme, which allows readers to get newspapers delivered to their door for free for up to six weeks.
NFRN president Stuart Reddish said: “Supermarkets are under increasing pressure from customers and independent retailers must play their part in both feeding and informing the nation.
“Through HND independents will not just be opening an important new revenue opportunity at a time of business uncertainty but undertaking a vital public service for the over 70s, those self isolating and the most vulnerable in our society. You are key to providing newspapers to inform, educate and entertain those isolated at this unprecedented time. I know you can do it.”
NMA chairman Henry Faure Walker has also issued an open letter to retailers concerning the importance of news publications during the coronavirus outbreak.
He wrote: “The need for independent, verifiable news and information is more important than ever during the coronavirus crisis, with the public turning to the news publications they trust in unprecedented numbers. The news media fulfils a critical service at this time, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable where information and support is so vital.”
Reach plc says it is putting “mitigation plans” in place to partially offset the effect coronavirus will have on print circulation.
The company issued a trading update this morning in which it set out its current strategy regarding COVID-19’s impact on the business, emphasising its priority had been to “safeguard the health and wellbeing” of staff.
The update states: “Given the rapidly changing situation, we have actively shaped business operations to best adapt to the current trading environment. This has included broadening our interactions with customers (via apps and newsletters), alongside offering more convenient options for our printed products, with an increase in home delivery.
“Whilst the first 12 weeks of the new financial year have traded overall in line with our expectations, the situation remains significantly uncertain and it is too early to assess the expected impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on FY 2020 and beyond.
“Currently, the principal trading areas expected to be impacted are advertising, print circulation and events. Advertising revenue deferrals may be expected given its discretionary nature, print circulation will be impacted by footfall reductions and closures of outlets and events delays or cancellation may be necessary.
“Mitigation plans are being developed to try to partially offset some of these.”
The Local Government Association has called for councils to be freed from “unnecessary burdens” such as dealing with Freedom of Information requests during the crisis, according to Wolverhampton daily the Express & Star.
Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “Councils are stepping up to play their role in supporting the national effort to tackle the coronavirus.
“Acting as a fourth emergency service, local government is prioritising the most vulnerable to ensure they have the support they need.
“This is essential work in the nation’s interests. Councils will step-up, but this emergency will stretch them and their teams to the maximum as it will all public services.
“Additional powers should be added to the legislation to further support councils in their efforts to tackle this emergency.”
Proceedings before a judge, without a jury, are still permissible during the pandemic and a reporter from the EDP will now be able to watch the coverage remotely and report on behalf of the public.
David Powles, editor of the EDP and Norwich Evening News said: “This was down to the work of our correspondents editor Steve Downes and Norfolk’s Judge Bate, who is a big supporter of both the EDP and open justice and was keen to ensure that the principle is upheld during these unprecedented times.
“If courts are to remain partially opened, it’s vital that justice continues to not only be done, but seen to be done. It’s also vital that is done in a safe way that doesn’t risk the safety of anyone.
“Norwich Crown Court deserve praise for this action and I would urge other courts to follow suit.”