My Department is contributing to the whole-of-Government response to managing outbreaks of Covid -19 in food plants. In the context of Covid-19, human health must be the absolute priority for all of us, and therefore it is vitally important that all our decisions and actions led by public health advice.
My Department’s statutory responsibility in relation to meat processing establishments is to ensure that these premises operate in compliance with the EU’s food hygiene legislation, animal health and animal welfare standards. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, my Department is participating in the HSE-chaired National Standing Committee on high risk settings, which meets on an ongoing basis to review existing protocols and compliance measures, and to identify any additional control measures required. My Department is also supporting the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority in monitoring the effective implementation of all relevant Covid-19 guidance in DAFM-approved food plants.
The Government decided in August that the HSE should implement a programme of serial testing of workers in food plants and other large businesses. This programme is on-going. By 27 September, 21,637 samples had been tested under this programme with 74 positives detected – a positivity rate of 0.34%.
There is no room for complacency with regard to the threat posed by Covid-19, and my Department is continually engaged with industry to ensure that the basic measures are implemented correctly – for example, ensuring that workers are reminded on a daily basis of public health guidance, in a range of languages, screening questions and temperature check on entry every day, social distancing in canteens and locker rooms, adequate PPE for all workers, etc.