Defra urges farms to register for free Covid-19 testing

Employers of seasonal workers are being encouraged to register for free Covid-19 tests
Employers of seasonal workers are being encouraged to register for free Covid-19 tests

The government has called on farming businesses who employ foreign agriculture workers to register for free Covid-19 workplace testing.

It follows the roll out of a new testing regime for international arrivals, which extended the supply of free Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests to employers of seasonal workers in the horticulture sector.

Under the regime, workers who are in the UK for longer than two days will be required to take a test before the end of day two and to take a further test every three days.

Those who receive a positive test result will be required to take a further Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for variant surveillance.

Defra has confirmed that seasonal agricultural workers will be able to access these tests through several routes, including home tests and community testing sites.

The workers should remain on the farm for the 10 days after they arrive, except where necessary to access testing, the department added.

Employers of seasonal agricultural workers who register for workplace testing can now access free tests to help meet this testing requirement.

Defra said this will protect farmers from having to take on the greater costs of regular PCR testing, which could save an estimated £10m for growers across the UK..

Farming Minister Victoria Prentis has written to farming businesses, encouraging them to take up the offer and register to deliver regular testing of their workers.

"As we look towards resuming a more normal way of life, we must stay vigilant and do what we can to ensure we continue to operate as safely as possible.

"Regular testing protects businesses, helps keep workers safe and is vital to our continuing recovery.

"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 of over 10 people, employers can dispense those tests for staff to take at home.

If positive results come back, Defra said staff must take swift action to isolate and undertake a confirmatory PCR test.

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