Extension of COVID-19 testing to food chain welcomed by NPA

The NPA has welcomed the Government announcement that farmers and other food chain workers in England with COVID-19-like symptoms will now be eligible for testing.

This is part of a much wider extension of the testing programme designed to speed up the return of people in quarantine back to work.

The Government, which is under increasing pressure to ramp up COVID-19 testing after setting a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month, announced that the tests are being extended to include ‘additional frontline workers who are symptomatic, and members of their household who are symptomatic’.

The full list of eligible people includes ‘critical personnel in food and drink production’, including farmers and allied industry workers.

The Government said the tests would allow frontline workers to return to work if they, or members of their household, test negative for coronavirus.

At Thursday’s daily media briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said employers of essential workers and their families will be able to go on the government’s website to get a coronavirus test for any of their staff who wants one.

“From tomorrow (Friday), any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment on gov.uk themselves directly,” he added.

Professor John Newton, coordinator of the UK coronavirus testing programme, insisted the UK was ‘on track’ to reach the government testing by the end of the month, despite only 23,560 tests taking place on Wednesday.

How to get a test

Full details of the testing regime can be viewed here

Key points include:

  • Referral for testing will be available through a digital portal, which will allow employers to refer their essential workers who are self-isolating
  • From 24 April, eligible individuals will also be able to use the portal to self-refer for a test. It will be possible to book a test directly at www.gov.uk/coronavirus
    Essential workers will be able to select either a regional test site drive-through appointment or a home test kit
  • The Government is establishing a network of 48 drive-through regional testing sites
  • Home test kit availability will initially be limited but more will become available. There is good availability of regional test sites, so workers are advised to select this option
  • The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, which can be done by the person themselves or by someone else
  • Any employer that has any queries should contact the Department of Health and Social Care at [email protected]

NPA reaction

The NPA, along with other food industry organisations, has been calling for increased testing within the industry since the start of COVID-19 restrictions.

Chief executive Zoe Davies said the announcement was ‘excellent news’. “This is something we have pushed really hard for and it is very good to see these test have been made available to farmers and the wider food supply chain,” she said.

“If things go according to plan, this will hopefully help ease some of the concerns about staffing that have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.”

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.