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Naktuinbouw and Measures to Prevent the Spread of the Coronavirus

Interview John van Ruiten, Director at Naktuinbouw (Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture)

News publication date: 30 March 2020

European Seed (ES): John, how is Naktuinbouw reacting to the COVID-19 epidemic?

John van Ruiten (JvR): Naktuinbouw is taking its responsibility in helping to contain the spread of coronavirus and is following the advice, guidelines and measures of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Dutch government.

ES: Naktuinbouw is carrying out company visits to do inspections. Are these still taking place?

JvR: As much as possible we plan to continue our inspection activities at companies. This is relevant for import and export inspections, plant passport inspections and crop quality inspections. For the moment we have minimized and in many cases postponed audits and administrative controls. Our inspectors are taking precautions to prevent them from spreading coronavirus. They observe the protective measures at the companies they visit and will ask the companies in advance if visiting the site is safe to prevent them from performing inspections that involve any risks. The inspectors try to minimise interaction with people on site. Please note that these measures may lead to delays or changes to the way we work.

ES: What about visits to Naktuinbouw?

JvR: Where possible, any planned meetings with third parties and trainings at Naktuinbouw sites will be postponed. We started to organize digital meeting using MS teams or Skype possibilities. Any visits or meetings that are necessary for the continuation of the work can take place in a number of cases, following consultation in advance. For example, think about stamping certificates or delivering material. Consultation in advance is necessary because our employees work from home as much as possible. Our occupancy at our locations is minimal. Please note that due to the minimum occupancy at our office, there may be a delay in your process.

When visiting Naktuinbouw, we will of course take precautionary and hygiene measures. We urge our clients to visit Naktuinbouw only if there is no other way. If they do need to visit Naktuinbouw, they will need to comply with the following conditions:

  • They don’t come from a risk area or have been there recently.
  • They have not had contact with a corona patient or anyone who has shown symptoms.
  • They cannot have cold symptoms or a fever, if they visit us.
  • They adhere to the prescribed distance of two meters to our employees.
  • They hand over their package(s) ‘contactless’.

Most samples for the 2020 DUS testing program for plant breeders’ rights or variety admission and listing in the EU catalogue have been received or are coming in at the moment. As far as we can see now Naktuinbouw can carry on with tests and trials as was planned.

ES: What does it mean for inspections at your location?

JvR: Preventing spread of the virus is a responsibility for us also, and we have to do that together! We also expect that companies cooperate to make our company visit possible. Our inspectors don’t take any chances and also do not want to be or the become possible transmitters if the virus themselves. They are tasked with aborting a visit if it turns out that there are unnecessary risks. We therefore count on their cooperation and understanding. The companies also benefit from their products being able to enter the trade circuit on time.

We expect the following from the companies on a company visit:

  • Report any specific details immediately upon entry, in case there is something out of the ordinary.
  • Avoid all unnecessary contacts, preferably accompany our inspector by only one person.
  • Always keep a distance of at least one-and-a-half meters.
  • Have documents ready at an appropriate distance.
  • Have patience. Sometimes adjustments in the method require some extra effort and time. Everyone goes out of their way to work as efficiently as possible.

ES: What does it mean for testing samples in your Naktuinbouw laboratory?

JvR: We will continue to carry out our laboratory work. For the time being, there is no change in our lead times and service. In order to decrease risks, we have, where possible, split our lab in two teams that work alternately.

This continuation might  change if other measures are announced in the Netherlands or if the sample flow increases unexpectedly.

It can be that things may change on the side of the company/laboratory, causing our clients to send more or fewer samples to Naktuinbouw. We would like to be well prepared for this. We ask our clients to inform us in the near future about any changes in the number of samples that they wish to submit. And which tests they want to request. They can do this by sending an email.

We also ask our clients to send us all samples by post or courier. If it is really necessary and if they have to deliver the package in person, please contact our laboratories in advance by phone number or email. Please note that our telephone accessibility has been reduced. Our preference is for contact by email.