Free Covid tests for overseas workers in horticulture sector

Farm businesses that grow fruit and vegetables can access free Covid-19 lateral flow tests for seasonal workers from overseas.

The offer comes as the UK introduces a new system for testing international arrivals to prevent the virus from spreading.

The government is urging employers of seasonal agricultural workers in the fruit and vegetable sectors to register for this free workplace testing.

See also: Options for farmers to secure migrant labour from 2021

The new bespoke testing regime for international arrivals will require workers who are in the country for longer than two days to take a test before the end of day two and to take a further test every three days – typically on days five and eight.

Those who test positive will need to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for surveillance of Covid-19 variants.

Workers should remain on-farm for 10 days after they arrive, except when they need to access testing.

The government says that by registering for the free testing programme, UK growers will be protected from the cost burden of regular PCR testing, which could have amounted to £10m.

No symptoms

About one in three people with coronavirus have no symptoms so workplace testing is seen as a key step in identifying individuals who may be carrying the virus without knowing it, allowing employers to take action to stop it spreading among their workforce.

Farming minister Victoria Prentis said registering for the programme was vital.

“I urge our farmers and growers to work with us to protect their workforces, their businesses and our food supply,’’ she said.

The tests can be carried out at a designated workplace site and, for businesses with more than 10 people, staff can be given the tests to take at home.

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

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