Food sector workers: register now for free Covid-19 testing

Lee Thomas

The NFU has been pushing hard for rapid workplace testing for farmers and workers in agriculture to help guarantee the nation’s food supplies. We are now pleased to inform members that help will be provided for the food sector.

Defra has informed the NFU that businesses with a minimum of 50 employees can register for government-funded lateral flow tests for asymptomatic workers. The free lateral flow device (LFD) test kits will be available until 31 March 2021.

The tests allow weekly testing of workers who are unable to work from home.

The government is inviting employers with more than 50 employees to establish asymptomatic testing sites (ATSs) in the workplace, which will allow both employees and contractors to access LFDs and receive rapid Covid-19 results.

The government will provide support to do this through:

• a limited period of free LFDs shipped to one location
• a clinically approved protocol (standard operating procedures)
• a guidebook to explain how to set up and run a safe and effective testing site
• on-demand training for the operatives that will process tests and run the site
• a GDPR-compliant digital solution to report results to Public Health England.

An overview of the process is available in Introduction to LFD Testing in Workplaces.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said:

“We strongly welcome the move to get to rapid asymptomatic workplace testing in place for those still working incredibly hard to produce the nation’s food.
“It has always been important during times of crisis to keep workers safe and our shops and fridges full, so it’s great that Defra and DHSC have secured this testing for those food businesses, including farmers and growers where they have over 50 employees.
“We will continue to work closely with government on reducing the need for those workers testing negative to self-isolate, and for smaller businesses to access mass testing facilities.”

Businesses with 50 or more employees register here for tests.

Less than 50 employees?

Establishing an ATS site may not be feasible or viable for smaller businesses or premises, and the model being rolled out is less suitable for mobile employees working in the field away from a fixed location. The NFU has been informed that the government is developing alternatives to help smaller businesses. In the meantime, businesses with fewer than 50 employees should contact their local authority to explore the possibility of using the growing number of community testing facilities that are being rolled out across the country. Detail of which areas offer community testing is available here.

The offer that will be made does not yet include LFD tests that employees take at home without assistance or supervision, nor the daily testing of contacts of those who have tested positive at an ATS (as a means of avoiding self-isolation). MHRA approval is ongoing for these approaches, and communications will be issued if and when either situation changes.

More coronavirus advice from NFU experts:

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