Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy described the decision as “reckless” and “inexplicable”.
THE HSE HAS confirmed that the testing of staff at meat and food processing has been suspended until next week to meet “the significant rise in demand for testing” in the community.
This evening, Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy posted on Twitter the contents of a letter from the HSE which said that a “decision was taken yesterday nationally to postpone Covid testing at food processing plants because of the increased capacity needed at the moment to deal with people with symptoms”.
In a statement, Carthy said this action was “reckless, inexplicable and poses a danger in the extreme to our communities”.
Significant clusters of Covid-19 have been linked to meat processing plants throughout the pandemic, and outbreaks in such facilities were a factor in the introduction of localised restrictions in Kildare, Offaly and Laois last month.
Unions have argued that conditions in such plants have contributed to the spread of Covid-19.
The recent spike in cases in Dublin, however, has been largely identified with spreading within households and, this evening, health officials urged people to limit their contacts.
A HSE spokesperson told TheJournal.ie this evening that such is the demand for testing within the community, the decision had been made to postpone the testing of staff in meat plants.
The spokesperson said: “Covid-19 testing of staff at meat and food processing facilities is being re-scheduled into next week.
This is a precautionary measure to allow us focus our resources on meeting the significant rise in demand for testing among people with coronavirus symptoms in the community. Testing demand nearly trebled on Monday with a requirement for over 13,000 community tests and over 3,000 hospital tests.
The HSE is liaising directly with facilities scheduled for testing and will re-schedule these next week.
“It is important to remember that where an outbreak occurs in a plant then normal mass testing will still occur in meat plants,” the spokesperson said. “Public Health will be in touch locally in those situations. In the meantime, if a staff member develops symptoms of coronavirus, we would ask them to self-isolate and phone a GP to be referred for a free coronavirus test.
Serial testing in meat plants which commenced on 21 August has yielded 40 positive cases so far and a positivity rate of 0.28%.
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Pointing to a specific case, Sinn Féin’s Carthy said that answers must be urgently provided.
He said: “Last week, two workers in a meat processing plant in Tipperary tested positive for Covid-19. Mass testing of all workers was set to begin on Wednesday.
“That the HSE would suspend testing at a plant where a cluster has been discovered lays truth to government’s falsehoods on our testing capacity.”
Carthy also criticised the government for repeatedly failing to provide answers on Covid-19 in meat processing facilities, and said assertions that there is a capability of completing 100,000 tests a week “are now proven questionable at best”.