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

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced this afternoon (Tuesday, October 6) that the first round of serial testing in meat plants is to be completed by the end of this week.

Speaking at the first public meeting of the Committee on Agriculture and the Marine this term, the minister said that as of Friday (October 2), 24,800 workers had been tested, with 101 positive cases.

This is a positivity rate of 0.4% – which the minister notes is lower than the rate in the general population at the moment.

“However, there is no room for complacency,” the minister said.

He added that his department is monitoring conditions in meat plants along with doing research into Covid-19 transmission in these settings. Issues to do with employees sharing accommodation and transport and a lack of sick pay are also being looked at.

The minister added that findings from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) Covid-19 inspections carried out in meat plants have shown a high level of compliance and that it is in the interest of meat plants that employees are protected and all appropriate protocols are followed.

In August, the government decided that the Health Service Executive (HSE) should undertake serial testing in meat plants. However, last month, this programme was postponed because of “the increased capacity needed at the moment to deal with people with symptoms”, according to the HSE.

All HSA inspections carried out in September were unannounced

Yesterday, AgriLand reported that all of the inspections in meat processing plants by the HSA last month were carried out unannounced.

A spokesperson for the HSA said that so far, there have been 23 meat processing plant inspections recorded for September, all of which were unannounced, meaning plants were not given prior notice to HSA officials attending sites to carry out inspections.

Minister McConalogue said last month that he would seek these inspections in meat plants be carried out predominantly unannounced.

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