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 essentials. As vaccines become available, Imperial has set up a task force across our Market Access and Logistics Africa businesses to ensure that we can assist with and facilitate the distribution of these vaccines where opportunities arise.
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. Customised staff training and communications aim to heighten awareness of risks and preventative measures. While many staff who are not required to be at the operations continue to work from home, different shift systems have been introduced to increase social distancing and a two-team model was implemented to ensure continuity if a member of the team tests positive for the virus. We have continued to support staff and minimised the financial burden on our people during this period.
Up to the end of December 2020, 844 staff across Imperial's operations tested positive for the virus, most of whom have made a full recovery. Sadly, 13 of our colleagues succumbed to the virus and we extend our deepest condolences to their families. The latest wave of infections had a more direct impact on our employees during the period as reflected in an increase in sick leave, negatively impacting our operational effectiveness for the first time and with associated costs.
As reflected in these results, businesses exposed to liquor and tobacco sales in Africa, as well as many of our European operations have seen significant impacts on volumes due to continued lockdown restrictions in H1 F2021. The cost impact of COVID-19 has increased compared to the second half of FY2020 due to ill employees needing to be replaced by temporary workers and the cost of having a remote workforce. Training and development programmes have also been negatively impacted due to the lockdowns.
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 are reflected in these results.
We also continue to support all our key stakeholders in our 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: