WEEKLY TESTING of all staff in meat factories across Ireland is to be introduced in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
In recent days, major outbreaks of coronavirus in meat and food processing factories have led to the reintroduction of lockdown in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, and the Government are scrambling to ensure this does not happen again.
Under new plans being discussed by TDs, staff at some of the bigger plants in Ireland will undergo weekly testing for the virus for at least four weeks to ensure the virus is not spreading through asymptomatic hosts.
According to The Irish Independent, smaller factories will undergo risk assessments to decide whether there is a need to introduce weekly testing there.
The plans, drawn up by Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, follows the same blueprint as testing in nursing homes during the height of the pandemic.
Workers union Siptu met with representatives of the meat industry earlier this week to address concerns regarding a lack of social distancing and workers rights following the outbreaks in factories.
Siptu official Greg Ennis spoke on RTÉ's Good Morning Ireland last Friday, where he said meat and food processing factories created the "perfect storm for the transmission of Covid".
"Close proximity workers, bottle necks in canteens and toilets, industrial air cooling systems circulating int he air and noise pollution which forces workers to shout and create ... droplets" are behind the spread of the infectious disease, Mr Ennis stated.
There were also concerns surrounding factory workers not being properly paid or being at risk of losing their jobs if they needed to self isolate.
Kildare Councillor Chris Pender told The Irish Mail on Sunday that one factory worker was told by his employer that if he self-isolated-- as is recommended by public health guidelines-- he would be at risk of losing his job.
Cllr Pender said:
"In one case, a worker had come back from checking on family abroad and ... they had informed their employers that they were going to quarantine for 14 days, as is recommended.
"They were told by the employers that one, they would get no sick pay, and two, they would be lucky to have a job to come back to."