Buyers will still be able to attend marts ringside during forthcoming Covid-19 restrictions – due to kick in this week – but only by appointment.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said today (Tuesday, December 22) that all those present around rings – or viewing animals in pens – must wear face coverings and adhere to strict social distancing.

Sellers will be able to drop off their stock but must then leave immediately.

Marts will be required to prevent the congregation of people in the carpark or at doorways or entrances.

Marts are also still required to submit standard operating procedures (SOPs), reflecting how they will operate under these rules, to their regional veterinary office.

This confirmation from the minister follows talks with Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

However, Minister McConalogue has asked buyers to continue using the online sales option where possible.

“I am pleased to announce that livestock sales will continue to be a blend of both online and ringside as part of new public health guidelines announced by the government,” he said.

“This blended approach has proved to be an excellent way of trading cattle and sheep with strong throughput coupled with steady prices in recent weeks, while offering a safe environment for those involved,” the minister added.

He continued: “The health, safety and wellbeing of the general public is our top priority at present as we continue to tackle the pandemic. We all have a role to play in keeping each other safe, and this is as important in the mart as anywhere else.

“I again commend the work of mart managers and farmers for engaging so meaningfully with the public health guidelines over recent months. It has been a challenging period but I am confident we can get through it together,” Minister McConalogue concluded.