Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what instructions have been issued to staff carrying out TB inspections regarding the wearing of protective equipment in compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs: Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic DAERA staff carrying out on farm visits associated with my Department’s bovine TB eradication plan have been issued with comprehensive instructions on how these visits should be conducted. All visits associated with bovine TB are pre-arranged to check that no one on the farm is either symptomatic or self-isolating. Staff must practise good hand hygiene and wear gloves. In addition, on the day of the visit, staff outline to the herd keeper that 2m social distancing will be practiced. My staff have all been provided with face coverings to wear if requested to do so as an additional measure by the herd keeper.
Private Veterinary Practitioners (PVPs) are contracted to carry out TB testing for DAERA. For each arranged test, the testing veterinarian must discuss the conduct of the test with the herd keeper before commencing. If the herd keeper has any doubts or concerns that he/she cannot provide the necessary facilities to maintain social distancing throughout the test, the test should not be undertaken. If a test commences, the testing veterinarian and the keeper must ensure that compliance with Public Health Agency guidance is maintained throughout. This advice has been provided to PVPs and is available on the DAERA website at https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/testing-bovine-tuberculosis-during-covid-19-pandemic where a link to the PHA website is included. PVPs as private contractors are responsible for the provision of their own PPE.