Lamb Processing

Victorian meat workers to undergo COVID-19 surveillance testing

Terry Sim, September 30, 2020

Precautionary asymptomatic COVID-19 testing was done at various abattoirs across the state last month, including of workers at the Frew Group abattoir in Stawell. Source – Northern Grampians Shire Council

A QUARTER of workers in Victoria’s larger meat processors will have to be tested for COVID-19 every week, in an initiative announced by the State Government today.

The Victorian Government said workers in high-risk industries will be asked to participate in the new Surveillance Testing Program as part of its defence against new coronavirus outbreaks.

Department of Health and Human Service deputy secretary for community engagement and testing Jeroen Weimar said the high-risk industries had responded fantastically in terms of taking on additional safety measures.

“These industries of themselves are not dangerous, but we know if coronavirus enters those kinds of environments there is that higher risk of infection spread across the workforce.”

The government said as case numbers decrease, the number of symptomatic tests will also decrease. Victoria is currently averaging approximately 12,000-15,000 tests on weekdays and 7,000-8,000 tests on weekend days.

“But we remain very focused on ensuring that the coronavirus doesn’t come back into these high-risk workplaces and these most critical workplaces given their importance for food supply to the entire state.”

He said the surveillance testing would be applied in the meat, seafood and poultry processing industries, among workers in supermarket distribution centres and in refrigeration and logistics.

“All told around 28,000 workers across Victoria working in these industries for 95 separate businesses.

“And we are focusing here on businesses that employ more than 25 staff in those industries,” he said.

“We will be asking those businesses to ensure that a quarter of their staff are tested every single week for the foreseeable period.

“That will mean that by the end of next week, we will have started that surveillance testing program and by the middle of October we expect the first 25 percent of staff to tested and we will then go on to test a quarter of those staff every single week.”

Mr Weimar said the high-risk industry staff will be able to get tested at any one of the 200 or more testing sites across the state.

“We will also be supporting the regional, rural and remote businesses in this sector by deploying our rapid response testing teams to those sites.’

He said DHHS would work with all of the 95 businesses to ensure their effective testing rate is in place to ensure that they can easily access testing, and it can be done efficiently and quickly to ensure early detection of any indications of coronavirus re-presenting.

Premier Andrews said as the state takes steps toward COVID Normal, the greatest tool to stop infection rates going backwards is getting tested.

“Our surveillance program will make sure we are leaving no stone unturned in tracking the virus.

“By expanding the testing options – we are giving industry the tools they need to reopen as safely as possible,” he said.


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