Trade union SIPTU has said it is “appalled and extremely concerned” by the decision to postpone serial Covid-19 testing in meat plants.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has said that testing at meat plants is to be postponed, apparently on a temporary basis.

SIPTU manufacturing division organiser Greg Ennis said that he is “appalled” that there’s a cessation of testing, “for the reasons we [SIPTU] have been calling for repeat blanket testing for a number of months”.

“The Taoiseach announced serial testing on August 12. It commenced on August 21, initially in the three lockdown counties and then throughout the country in the last number of days,” Ennis told AgriLand.

“And the fact that it’s halted now is potentially disastrous because, while I do accept there are growing demands for testing in the community, where are the 15,000 tests per day that Simon Harris promised on March 19?

“Where is the WHO [World Health Organization] and HSE mantra of tests, tests, tests?”

‘God help us in the winter’

In a statement this morning, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said that results so far from 15,153 tests nationwide found 42 positive cases, or 0.28% overall.

Ennis commented on this, saying that while the figure of positive cases “may seem small”, this sector has “proven to have vectors for unprecedented transmission”.

As of now, we have had over 1,500 cases out of 15,000 workers in the sector – so over 10% of the workforce contracted Covid-19.

“Serial testing needs to be reinstated immediately. Four active clusters in meat plants currently, over 1,500 cases to date, I am hearing of five-fold increases in the referral of children to GPs with concerns about Covid so the pressure is on the system.

“But, there is a question that has to be asked: Is the system not able to cope?

“Because if it’s not able to cope now, God help us in the winter when the influenza season kicks in.”

‘To hear it through media sources not good enough’

Ennis said he is “very disappointed” that SIPTU was not informed about the cessation when the decision was, according to Ennis, taken two days ago.

“We’ve done everything we can for the last six months to try and thwart Covid-19 within the meat industry and to hear about the cessation of testing through media sources so late after the decision is not good enough.”