Serial Covid-19 testing of staff in meat factories and food processing facilities has been suspended.
Serial testing began on August 21st with 40 positive cases identified.
The news comes as testing demand nearly trebled on Monday, with a requirement for over 13,000 community tests and over 3,000 hospital tests.
“This is a precautionary measure to allow us to focus our resources on meeting the significant rise in demand for testing among people with coronavirus symptoms in the community.” a spokesperson for the HSE said in a statement.
“It is important to remember that where an outbreak occurs in a plant, then normal mass testing will still occur in meat plants.”
The HSE confirmed that Covid-19 testing of staff in meat factories and food processing facilities will resume next week.
The spokesperson advises that if a staff member develops symptoms of Covid-19, they are asked to self-isolate and phone a GP to be referred for a free Covid-19 test.
Denis Naughten is among those who have expressed dismay at the HSE’s decision.
“We must hunt Covid out of meat plants, not chase it from county to county.” he said.
“After completing just about 10% of the serial screening programme within the meat and food processing sector, the HSE has suspended the programme,” stated Denis Naughten.
“This is despite the fact that if this programme was done during the summer months, when there was ample capacity, it would have avoided the lockdowns in Kildare, Laois and Offaly.”
“Over four months ago, I highlighted serious flaws in the management of Covid-19 infection within the meat industry, yet those in authority, were more interested in tackling the man than addressing the fundamental problems that were occurring right across the meat processing sector.”
The risk posed within the sector arose, he outlined, due to the close quarters within which people work and live, the atmosphere for survival and transmission of the virus and the large number of asymptomatic positive cases.
“Yet rather than deal with the significant Covid-19 risk, the focus was on circling the wagons.
“While we must ensure that all those referred for a Covid test receive it in a timely manner, unless we concentrate on potential reservoirs of infection in the food industry, we will never be able to manage it,” concluded Naughten.