Seasonal workers offered free Covid-19 tests on farms

Seasonal agricultural workers on a Norfolk farm

Seasonal agricultural workers are being offered free Covid-19 tests on farms - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Employers of seasonal agricultural workers have been urged to register for free workplace testing to help restrict the spread of Covid-19.

The government made the plea to farm businesses after introducing a new bespoke testing regime for international arrivals, which extended the supply of free Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests to employers of seasonal workers - who are a vital part of East Anglia's horticulture sector, picking and packing fruit and vegetables.

Migrant workers who are in the country for longer than two days will be required to take a test before the end of day two, and then every three days – typically on days five and eight.

Defra says workers will be able to access these tests through several routes, including home tests and community testing sites. They should remain on the farm for the 10 days after they arrive, except where necessary to access testing.

Employers of seasonal agricultural workers who register for workplace testing can now access free tests to help meet this testing requirement.
Farming minister Victoria Prentis wrote to growers saying she was "immensely grateful" for their resilience during the pandemic, and urging them to sign up for testing which could "protect their workforces, their businesses and our food supply.”

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The tests can be carried out at a designated workplace site and, for businesses of over 10 people, employers can dispense tests for staff to take at home. If positive results come back, Defra says staff must take swift action to isolate and undertake a confirmatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.

National Farmers' Union (NFU) vice president Tom Bradshaw, who farms near Colchester, said: “I’m pleased to see the government once again recognise the importance of our seasonal workforce and the crucial role they play in the planting, picking and packing of iconic British produce.

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“Given public health considerations, the current temporary exemption from testing requirements is being replaced by a practical solution that ensures fruit and veg businesses are able to run effectively, in the safest way possible.

"The supply of lateral flow tests free of charge to businesses employing seasonal workers means that testing can be carried out without excessive cost burdens being added.

“Given the tight window for registering for lateral flow tests, I would urge members to register as soon as possible to ensure they are prepared for the arrival of seasonal workers this year.”

Employers must register for the programme by April 12 to receive a supply of free test kits until the end of June.

Tom Bradshaw, chair of the NFU’s combinable crops board, at his farm at Fordham, near Colchester

Tom Bradshaw, vice president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) - Credit: John Cottle

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