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Change to COVID self-isolation could ease some of the pressure on pork plants

14th Dec 2020 / By Alistair Driver

Capacity at UK pork plants continues to come under pressure from COVID-19 outbreaks among staff – but there has been some good news on that front.

abattoir workersThe Government has announced that, from today, self-isolation for contacts of people with confirmed cases will be shortened from 14 to 10 days across the UK. The change will also apply to people instructed to quarantine after returning from high-risk countries.

It means anyone who has been self-isolating for 10 days or more will be able to end their quarantine on Monday.

The change, while only bringing partial relief, will lessen the impact of outbreaks in pork plants, which have created significant disruption across the sector over the past few weeks as testing has been stepped up.

Various plants across the country have been forced to operate at reduced capacity, which has resulted in a backlog of pigs on farms at a busy time of year.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies “In many cases, it is the quarantine rules, rather than the virus itself that has been hitting capacity at plants. The reduction in the self-isolation period is really good news – it will reduce the time plants have to be shut down for and generally lift processing capacity across the country.

Nonetheless, the overall situation is likely to remain challenging for some time yet. The NPA has been working hard behind the scenes to encourage the supply chain to work together and find solutions, all the while pressing Government and relevant agencies to ensure plants keep moving and regain access to China as soon as possible once outbreaks have passed.

Senior policy adviser Charlie Dewhirst has prepared a letter for producers to send to their MPs to raise awareness about the situation and call for the meat processing industry to be prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine.

More details of how to access the letter will be available soon. 

"Further outbreaks at any of the larger processing plants would be devastating for the industry. The sooner a vaccine can be given to the food processing workforce to prevent further outbreaks and shutdowns, the quicker the processors can return to full capacity and reverse the current problems," Charlie said.

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