Level 5 and farming: How will new Covid-19 restrictions affect agriculture?

The country will be moving up to Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions later this week, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed this evening (Monday, October 19).

In a statement this evening, the government announced that it decided today that, as of midnight on Wednesday, October 21, all of Ireland will be placed on Level 5 of the “Plan for Living with Covid” with a small number of exceptions.

This action, the government says, “is based on current public health advice, the deteriorating situation with the disease across the country and the Government’s objectives to support families by keeping schools and childcare facilities open, maintaining non-Covid health services and protecting the vulnerable”.

Level 5 restrictions will remain in place for a period of six weeks, through to Tuesday, December 1, the government says.

The government has agreed that the moratorium on evictions be reinstated and that Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme “be amended to reflect these challenges”, it was added.

Level 5 restrictions will involve the following:
  • People are asked to stay at home. People should work from home unless providing an essential service for which their physical presence is required;
  • People will be permitted to exercise within a radius of 5km of their home;
  • There will be a penalty for movement outside 5km of home, with exemptions to this for essential work and essential purposes;
  • In line with current NPHET advice in respect of Level 5, schools, early learning and childcare services will continue to remain open and are deemed essential;
  • There should be no visits to other people’s homes or gardens;
  • However, there will be the concept of an extended household (or support bubble) for defined categories of individuals to support those at risk of social isolation and/or mental ill-health.

These restrictions contain a blend of guidelines which had been in force during the previous national lockdown in the spring, such as the 5km limit and working from home, as well as some new factors, such as a penalty for breaching the 5km limit and the support bubbles.

Once again, farmers and agricultural workers are listed under the “essential workers” category, with essential purposes for travel outside the 5km limit including: “for farming purposes i.e. food production and/or care of animals”.

Regarding marts, according to the Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS), following communications with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine last week, in the event of Level 5, it was proposed that “marts would be online only, with only mart staff working on site with drop and go for sellers”. Further details are expected on this later in the week.

Meanwhile, regarding cooperatives, Glanbia has already reintroduced its call and collect service among its branches, with other co-ops expected to follow suit.

Turning to machinery sales and repairs, the Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) earlier today offered advice for members on operating under new restrictions.