Covid-19: Farm contractors listed as ‘essential workers’

Agricultural contractors are exempt from the Government’s latest increased restrictions aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19, the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has confirmed.

Shortly after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s announcement that the country would move the next, escalated stage of public protection – effective from midnight tonight, Friday, March 27 – the FCI issued the below notification to its members.

It begins: “Important notice to all farm contractors.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has just confirmed to FCI tonight (Friday, March 27) that farm contractors can continue work on farms without [the latest] restrictions.

“Please follow HSE advice on personal safety, (already emailed to all FCI members today) with more updates to come as things evolve.

“The Department of Agriculture included farm contractors on the list of essential services to the Taoiseach’s office and the HSE earlier this week – at the request of FCI.

“Stay working and stay safe, unless told otherwise. We will keep you updated,” the message concludes.

Food production

Earlier tonight, farming activities were named as exempt from a series of tighter Government restrictions to be implemented in order to protect the nation’s citizens from the highly-infectious virus.

Speaking at a press briefing in Government Buildings, the Taoiseach delivered stark details on the latest ramped up measures to be implemented over the coming hours.

“With effect from midnight tonight, for a two-week period until Easter Sunday, April 12, everybody must stay at home in all circumstances, except for the following situations…[including] for farming purposes; that is food production and the care of animals,” he said.

Other exemptions named by the Taoiseach include: for the purposes of travelling to and from work – only where work is in essential health, social care or other essential services that cannot be done from home.

(A full list of essential services will be provided by Government tomorrow.)

“To shop for food and household goods or to collect a meal. To attend medical appointments and collect medicines and other health products.

“For vital family reasons – such as to provide care to children, the elderly or vulnerable people.

“To take brief periods of physical exercise within 2km of your own home, which may include children from your own household, as long as you adhere to 2m physical distancing.”

Pushing the virus back

The Fine Gael leader was speaking shortly after the Department of Health reported that 302 new cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total number of cases to 2,121.

Three more people have died here, bringing the total number of deaths from the virus to 22.

Guided by the advice of the Public Health Emergency Team, led by the chief medical officer, the Taoiseach said that now is the time for further actions.

“I said there would be a calm before the storm – and yet with every single action that we have taken we have reduced the impact of that storm in our country…to slow the virus down, to push it back and to contain it.”

Transmission in the community, he said, now accounts for more than half of all cases…and there continues to be an increasing number of clusters – many of which are in nursing homes and residential care settings.

The newly-announced measures are in addition to all of the existing measures that are already in place.