The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has confirmed that food sector workers will be offered government-funded Covid-19 tests.

The NFU has been pushing hard for rapid workplace testing for farmers and workers in agriculture to help guarantee the nation’s food supplies.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has informed the NFU that businesses with a minimum of 50 employees can register for government-funded lateral flow tests for asymptomatic workers.

The free lateral flow device (LFD) test kits will be available until March 31, 2021.

The tests allow weekly testing of workers who are unable to work from home.

Who is eligible

The government is inviting employers with more than 50 employees to establish asymptomatic testing sites (ATSs) in the workplace, which will allow both employees and contractors to access LFDs and receive rapid Covid-19 results.

The government will provide support to do this through:

  • A limited period of free LFDs shipped to one location;
  • A clinically approved protocol (standard operating procedures);
  • A guidebook to explain how to set up and run a safe and effective testing site;
  • On-demand training for the operatives that will process tests and run the site;
  • A GDPR-compliant digital solution to report results to Public Health England.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said:

“We strongly welcome the move to get to rapid asymptomatic workplace testing in place for those still working incredibly hard to produce the nation’s food.

It has always been important during times of crisis to keep workers safe and our shops and fridges full, so it’s great that Defra and DHSC [Department of Health and Social Care] have secured this testing for those food businesses, including farmers and growers where they have over 50 employees.

“We will continue to work closely with government on reducing the need for those workers testing negative to self-isolate, and for smaller businesses to access mass testing facilities,” he concluded.