Answers required on reckless decision to suspend meat plant testing - Matt Carthy TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has demanded immediate answers from government on the decision to cease Covid-19 testing at food processing plants, including in at least one plant at which recent positive cases were confirmed.
Speaking this evening, Teachta Carthy said: “This action is reckless, inexplicable, and poses a danger in the extreme to our communities.
“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.
"Instead, workers at the factory received a text message advising them that the business had been informed by the HSE that ‘all Covid-19 testing for food processing facilities has ceased with immediate effect'.
“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.
“My colleague and local Sinn Féin TD for Tipperary, Martin Browne, received confirmation from the HSE that ‘a decision was taken yesterday (Tuesday) nationally to postpone Covid testing at food processing plants because of the increased capacity needed at the moment to deal with people with symptoms’.
“The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, addressed the Dáil on a number of occasions throughout Wednesday.
"Disgracefully, he made no reference to this dangerous decision, even after I had raised the issue of meat plants with him. It is an unacceptable disregard for the Dáil and for public accountability.
“Throughout the Covid-19 period, we have seen meat factories operating to different rules than every other sector. We have seen the government continually failing to provide answers to questions about the situation in the food processing sector.
“This episode proves that the blank cheque for the meat factories remains in place. It also proves that the government’s commitments on testing count for little.
"For months, Sinn Féin have pressed the government on their failure to achieve the 100,000 tests a week we were promised months ago. The government maintained that they have the capacity, and that it has not been required. Such assertions are now proven questionable at best.
“Minister Donnelly has abdicated his responsibility to protect the health of our communities when it comes to meat plants – our communities and those workers deserve, and demand better.
"As a matter of urgency, answers must be provided on this dangerous decision.”