Finnebrogue warns of food production standstill if Covid 7-day isolation rules continue

Finnebrogue warns of food production standstill if Covid 7-day isolation rules continue

A leading figure at Co Down food company Finnebrogue Artisan has warned that production lines could grind to a halt if the requirement of seven-day isolation for Covid-19 cases continues.

Jago Pearson, chief strategy officer at the Downpatrick-based business, has called on the Government to reduce the period to five days.

“For food production, the largest manufacturing sector in Britain, mass quarantining of healthy workers threatens to grind production lines to a halt,” said Mr Pearson, writing in the Belfast Telegraph.

The company employs 1,200 people in the manufacture of sausages, bacon and plant-based products. It is a major supplier to UK supermarkets.

Mr Pearson said: “We currently have up to 5% absence attributable to Covid, but are concerned this will rise in coming weeks without action on isolation rules.

“Anything over 10% will put our production lines under significant pressure.”

New rules have cut the previous requirement for a 10-day self-isolation period to seven days, provided a patient can provide negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven, but Prime Minister Boris Johnston has said he would consider cutting the isolation period if it could be shown not to increase infection.

Mr Pearson said that the policy of seven-day isolation was “putting the NHS under almost intolerable strain”.

“Iceland boss Richard Walker has called for isolation to be cut to five days. His call will be echoed by the whole food industry,” he said.

“We have done so much to keep our staff safe throughout the pandemic by implementing advanced protection and prevention measures at considerable cost.

“Their efforts to feed the nation have been extraordinary. But now we need Government to relax isolation rules — not just to save the NHS — but our essential food industry too.”