First round of Covid-19 serial testing in meat plants to be completed by end of this week

The first round of Covid-19 serial testing in meat plants will be completed by the end of this week, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

He told RTÉ Radio 1 today (Wednesday, September 9) that serial testing is being undertaken in meat plants and that this round of testing will be completed in every plant by the end of this week.

After this initial testing is completed, it will be repeated on a two-week rolling basis and that the results will be “very closely monitored”.

The minister added that he will be seeking for Health and Safety Authority (HSA) Covid-19 inspections in meat plants to be carried out predominantly unannounced.

Inspections in meat plants

In August, there were 26 inspections carried out in meat plants, with 25 of these carried out unannounced.

The controversy over inspections being carried out in meat plants unannounced has been ongoing throughout the pandemic.

AgriLand discovered last month that every announced Covid-19 inspection carried out by the HSA before August took place in meat processing plants.

99% of all Covid-19 inspections/investigations carried out in workplaces were unannounced since the commencement of the easing of restrictions across the country.

Only 23% of inspections/investigations carried out in meat plants were unannounced.

As reported on August 13, the HSA said that, of the 39 Covid-19 compliance inspections carried out in meat plants in the Republic of Ireland, only nine were unannounced.

Responding to queries by AgriLand, the HSA revealed that the “vast majority”, greater than 99%, of HSA inspections were carried out unannounced in workplaces.

At that stage, the HSA had conducted 3,840 inspections, of which 2,844 addressed Covid-19 measures. The 1%, or 30 workplaces that were announced prior to inspection, were all in meat plants.

‘When something is a failure, we need to name it as a failure’

As we enter the colder months, there are further concerns over Covid-19 spreading in meat factories.

Lessons must be learned from what happened already, according to TD Catherine Murphy, and we will have to live with Covid-19 until a vaccine is found.

“Slaughterhouses, especially, are cold and wet environments – conducive to regular colds and flu,” deputy Murphy said.

As a representative from Co. Kildare, deputy Catherine Murphy says she feels that state agencies “dropped the ball” when it came to monitoring high-risk workplaces.

She discussed the recent lockdown in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly, following a number of outbreaks of the Covid-19 virus in meat processing plants.

“There is a price to pay for both the economy and society,” the deputy said, addressing the Dáil recently.