Covid-19: Meat sector wants quick test turnaround for its workers

Oireachtas virus group to hear new system will work only if speedy sampling in place

Kildare Chilling on the outskirts of Kildare town, where a significant outbreak of Covid-19 occurred among employees. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Kildare Chilling on the outskirts of Kildare town, where a significant outbreak of Covid-19 occurred among employees. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

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The meat industry wants a 24-hour turnaround for Covid-19 tests taken on its workforce in Ireland as part of a new testing protocol being developed by the Government, The Irish Times has learned.

In opening remarks to be delivered to the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee on Thursday, representatives of lobby group Meat Industry Ireland (MII) will say the proposed new testing arrangements will “only work to keep people safe while maintaining business continuity” if several steps are taken. These include “a speedy and efficient sampling system, with test results returned within 24 hours of the sample being taken”.

At present the Health Service Executive obtains test results in an average of 0.9 days. But this average is reduced by the fast-track hospital system which enables results for healthcare workers to be delivered in a little over 17 hours. The average time for a community test sample result is just under 27 hours.

‘Blame and complain’

The meat industry is also asking that “clear and unambiguous advance communication of the screening test protocols” is delivered and that there is “an effective track and trace system” in place.

The industry group will say that “in this latest outbreak there has been a rush to blame and complain that nothing has been done to mitigate and prevent the virus spread in this industrial setting. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The opening remarks will also reveal that a joint piece of research is being undertaken by MII and the Department of Agriculture to examine whether there are conditions within the meat plant environment that accelerate the spread of Covid-19.

The committee will hear that in the two-month period up to August 4th, five additional cases of Covid-19 had emerged in MII members’ facilities.

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