Thursday, 13 August 2020Meat Industry Ireland (MII) will stress the importance of turning around Covid-19 test results in less than 24 hours in its opening statement to the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response later today.
MII will point to the significant progress that has been made since they last appeared before the committee, with only one active Covid-19 cluster at a primary processing plant compared to 22 active clusters in early July.
All the original 22 clusters are no longer active and 99% of affected staff have recovered and returned to work. In the two-month period until 4th August, across all MII members’ sites, just five additional cases had emerged.
MII’s statement explains that this improvement is the result of the stringent controls and mitigation measures that were put in place early in the pandemic and were strengthened on the 15th May with the publication of HSE protocols. The rigid enforcement of these measures, verified by government agencies, has served to reverse the trend of positive cases and restored the overall sector to relative stability.
The statement also says MII welcomes unannounced inspections of plants from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) or any other relevant State Agency.
MII’s statement cautions against a rush to blame the processing sector, which is an essential service and contributes €4 billion to Irish food exports, supports the incomes of 100,000 farmers and directly employs 16,000 people.
Commenting in advance of the committee hearing MII Director, Cormac Healy said: “Our members remain fully committed to public health guidelines, and we are working to ensure that any necessary additional protocols are clear, and tests capable of being turned around in under 24 hours. The industry has worked diligently to protect employees throughout the course of this pandemic and continues to do so. Vigilance remains the priority, but the fact that there is only one active cluster in a primary meat processing plant indicates the significant progress we are making.”
Earlier this week MII held a constructive meeting with representatives of SIPTU, where there was agreement on the objectives of supporting working safety and business continuity in the implementation of increased Covid-19 testing.