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FAQs about Public Health Measures October 2020

Updated 07 October 2020

The latest Government restrictions in place in Ireland are available on www.Gov.ieThe latest restrictions that apply nationwide include restrictions on the numbers of people gathering and the advice to continue working from home where possible.  Travel is restricted to within your own county except for essential reasons. Overseas travel is not recommended except for essential reasons.

For more details, please visit www.Gov.iewww.HSE.ie or see the FAQs relating to agri-food sectors on the Covid-19 Hub on www.agriculture.gov.ie. These sites have a great deal of information which may answer your questions. The agriculture website also contains many Information Line numbers for our various schemes and services.

DAFM

Is the Department open for business?

The Department remains open for business though the public offices are closed to public visitors for the present. The Department can be reached at the normal contact numbers, or by e mail. There is a specific COVID-19 Information Line at: 076 1064468

Our phone lines are open from 9:30am to 12:30pm and from 2:00pm to 5:00pm.  A range of online facilities are also available

Do farmers or other essential workers aged over 70 have to cocoon?

Those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to continue to exercise personal judgement. It is recommended that they stay at home as much as possible, limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time, while remaining physically distanced.

When taking exercise outdoors, it is important to maintain 2 metres distance from others and wash hands on returning home. It is recommended to shop during designated hours only, while wearing a face covering, and to avoid public transport.

If there are essential tasks on the farm which require more than one person, older farmers should not hesitate to ask for help from family and neighbours but should ensure that social distancing is possible, that is stay at least 2 metres apart.

If an older farmer needs additional help or has any concerns, they should ring the local community support Information Line (there is one in each local authority area) or the local Garda station. Anyone who visits the farm, including farm workers, contractors and farm relief services, should ensure that they maintain 2 metre physical distancing.

Are Marts open?

The Department has agreed protocols to allow marts to continue to operate, albeit on a limited and controlled basis, so that livestock sales could continue during the period of restrictions. Mart services including public auctions recommenced with appropriate protocols in accordance with the Government roadmap on 8th June.

Each mart operates under a “Covid 19 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)” which must be signed off by the Department. Adherence to the SOP is a condition of the Mart’s  licence and is  mandatory.  The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has directed that from midnight on 6 October livestock marts adjust their operations accordingly, and submit a revised Covid-19 Level 3 standard operating procedure to their Regional Veterinary Office.  The adjustments mean  that 2 metre social distancing must be enforced at marts, in addition to a range of detailed measures relating to staff, visitors and structures. In addition, marts must ensure that face coverings are worn by both staff and visitors while on the premises.

Marts not implementing this policy risk losing their licence to operate.

What oversight does the Department exercise  over  Food Processing Plants?

In addition to its normal oversight role in relation to food safety, animal health and animal welfare, this Department is an essential component of the National Standing Oversight Committee on COVID-19 for food processing plants and this work will continue and expand as necessary. Department inspection staff have been carrying out inspections at these facilities on behalf of the HSA.

An essential part of the latest measures is greater inspection and enforcement arrangements to ensure that premises are operating safely and within Regulations and guidelines.

Schemes, Payments, Inspections

Will farm payments be made on time?

DAFM has introduced a range of measures for handling scheme applications and payment processing to take account of  the latest public health guidelines ( with a strong focus on telephone, text messaging and online interaction with customers).  These measures are being kept under review. Ireland has also sought and achieved flexibilities at EU level to allow scheme payments to be delivered later this year as usual even though all  the  regulatory checks and controls may not be completed on time.  DAFM has written to all farmers to advise them of the schedule of payments under a range of schemes, and remains on course to issue payments on schedule.

Will farm inspections continue?

The Department continues routine on-farm visits in order to minimise any delays in payments and to meet scheme requirements. Our priority remains unchanged.  The health & safety of our customers, our staff and their families is paramount.  Our Inspecting Officers are required to follow best practice and  the latest HSE guidelines on Hygiene throughout the inspection process.