In response to the closure of the meat processing plant in Kilbeggan, Co.Westmeath, the Green Party has called for Covid-19 testing of workforces at all food processing plants across the country.
The Green Party’s Spokesperson on Agriculture, Senator Pippa Hackett, said: "The food supply chain requires healthy people to operate, the whole way along from farm to fork. Although a range of physical distancing and hygiene measures have been implemented, the close working environments in some food processing plants may make these difficult to fully implement, and the risk of spreading or contracting the virus will be high.
"I have been contacted by concerned individuals who work closely with processing plants, and they have been highlighting their worries regarding the spread of Covid-19 among the workers in these plants, and beyond. In reality, the closure of the Kilbeggan meat plant is a snap shot of the nationwide situation, and with a number of clusters already identified around the country, widespread closure of such plants and other food processing facilities would grind this sector, and much of our food supply, to a halt.
"Food is essential, and we are calling on the government to roll out testing among the workforce immediately, in an effort to stave off the closure of more food processing plants."
Green Party Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, adds: "As we exit the lockdown phase of the Covid crisis, we'll need to actively manage the difficult balance between economic recovery and public health. Cases like this highlight the need for businesses to be supported in re-opening, ensuring that best practices around social distancing and hygiene can be observed in the workplace.
"The rights of employees to work in a safe environment must be paramount as we reactivate dormant sectors of our economy."