Department outlines options to defer TB tests due to Covid-19

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has issued a statement outlining its stance on TB testing in light of the ongoing situation with the coronavirus (Covid-19).

Stressing that the overriding principle in all situations is the importance of the health and safety of all stakeholders and their families, the department said that, “in terms of trade and disease control, TB testing continuity is essential to protect Irish cattle farming from the spread of TB”.

However, where a herd cannot be TB tested due to Covid-19 related issues, the trading status of the herd will be suspended, the authority said.

It was noted that, if a farmer is not available to present cattle for testing because he or she is self-isolating due to symptoms of Covid-19, the farmer should “follow HSE [Health Service Executive] advice and not present the cattle for testing him/herself”.

If possible, alternative arrangements should be made so that someone else can assist with the TB test on the farmer’s behalf. If this is not possible, the Regional Veterinary Office should be informed and the test can be delayed. The herd will have its trading status suspended due to being out of test.

Such options are also available if a farmer is not available to present cattle for testing as he or she is in a vulnerable or at-risk group, and is choosing to self-isolate.

Similarly, if a vet is unable to conduct a test due to Covid-19, efforts should be made to find a different vet; should this not be possible, the test can be delayed and the herd in question will have its trading status suspended.

If a TB test is delayed due to Covid-19 related issues, the department said that the delay would not be a basis for referring the farmer for possible cross-compliance action.

Also, if the delayed test is a test paid for by the department, “a delay due to Covid-19 will not be grounds to make it a farmer-paid test”, the authority assured.

Should vets not be able to test every animal while observing the appropriate social distance guidelines, the department said that steps can be taken to suspend the herd and list a Miscellaneous Animal Test for a later date.

The authority stressed the need to follow best practice and HSE guidelines on hygiene, as well as the need to maintain social distancing of at least 2m.

The department said updated guidance will be issued as necessary based on HSE information.