Imperial plays a critical role in the supply of essential services and products in the many countries in which it operates and we continue to keep the wheels turning so that people can receive medication, food and other essential services and products.
Our focus during the pandemic remains first and foremost to protect our people and operations from infection. Stringent safety and strict access control procedures remain in place and rigorous hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting procedures continue, with dedicated resources in place to support and monitor COVID-19 related risks at each operation. Most of our employees who tested positive for COVID-19 have fully recovered. Sadly, 24 of our colleagues succumbed to the virus and we extend our deepest condolences to their loved ones. The latest wave of infections had a more direct impact on our employees during the year as reflected in an increase in sick leave, negatively impacting our operational effectiveness, and with associated costs during the year.
In April 2021, Imperial was awarded the opportunity to participate in the importation of COVID-19 vaccines into South Africa, as part of the National Department of Health's (NDoH) vaccine distribution campaign, as an approved importer of the vaccine, together with Biovac. The contract runs until December 2022 and we will participate as tenders for importation become available. Imperial remains well-placed to transport, store and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine from a capability perspective. As vaccines become available, Imperial has set up a task force across our Market Access and Logistics Africa businesses to ensure that we can participate in the distribution of these vaccines where opportunities arise.
As reflected in these results, businesses exposed to alcohol and tobacco sales in Africa and our European operations in the automotive sector have seen significant impacts on volumes due to continued lockdown restrictions and the global shortage of semi-conductors in F2021.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have maintained a sound financial position, generating cash, tightly managing costs and executing our strategic imperatives to make us resilient for the future. The benefits of this are reflected in these results.
We also continue to support all our key stakeholders and countries of operation, strongly demonstrating our purpose as a business, which is connecting Africa and the world and improving people's lives with access to quality products and services. Some of these initiatives include: