The government has called on employers of seasonal agricultural workers to help keep the nation safe and restrict the spread of Covid-19 by registering for free workplace testing.
Employers must register for the programme by the 12 April to receive a supply of free test kits up until the end of June.
This news follows the introduction of a new bespoke testing regime for international arrivals , which extended the supply of free Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests to employers of seasonal agricultural workers in the edible horticulture sector.
Under the regime international arrivals who are in the country for longer than two days will be required to take a test before the end of day two and to take a further test every three days – typically on days five and eight. Those who receive a positive test result will be required to take a further PCR test for variant surveillance.
Seasonal agricultural workers will be able to access these tests through several routes, which include home tests and community testing sites. They should then remain on the farm for the 10 days after they arrive, except when it is necessary to access testing.
The free testing will protect growers from having to take on the greater costs of regular PCR testing, which could save an estimated £10m for growers across the country.
Writing to growers across the country today, Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said:
Farming Minister Victoria Prentis has written to employers of seasonal workers today, encouraging them to take up this offer and register to deliver regular testing of their workers. With around 1 in 3 people infected with coronavirus not showing symptoms, workplace testing will help to identify individuals who may be carrying the virus without knowing it, and allow employers to take the necessary action to stop the virus spreading amongst their workforce.
“I am immensely grateful for the resilience our growers have shown throughout the last year, meeting the challenges of the pandemic and going above and beyond to help keep the nation fed.
“Now, as we look towards resuming a more normal way of life, we must stay vigilant and do what we can to ensure we continue to operate as safely as possible.
“Regular testing protects businesses, helps keep workers safe and is vital to our continuing recovery. I urge our farmers and growers to work with us to protect their workforces, their businesses and our food supply.”
The tests can be carried out at a designated workplace site, and for businesses of over 10 people, they can be dispense for staff to take at home. When results are positive, staff must take swift action to isolate and undertake a confirmatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.
In addition, those overseas looking to work within the edible horticulture sector will be able to undertake the mandatory two week quarantine period on the farm, meaning they can carry out certain tasks under Covid-safe conditions during that time. This has already proved to be vitally important for the sector, with government taking action to ensure that pickers were able to get straight to work gathering last year’s harvest.