Covid travel rules have been lifted for poultry workers to ensure turkey will be on the table for Christmas dinner


The government has waived Covid travel rules for seasonal poultry workers to ensure the British can gobble up turkeys this Christmas.

Ministers on Wednesday added seasonal poultry workers to the list of jobs exempt from coronavirus-related travel restrictions in a bid to encourage EU workers in the UK.

This means that people arriving in England to work on poultry farms no longer need to self-isolate if they are traveling from an Amber List country and have received two doses of the vaccine from an approved vaccine program. .

Those arriving from Amber List countries that are not vaccinated will be able to work during their 10-day quarantine period, although they will still need to isolate themselves from the general public.

It comes after reports earlier this week suggested Britain may be heading for a turkey-free Christmas this year as a nationwide CO2 shortage threatens to shut down UK slaughterhouses.

Carbon dioxide is used to stun animals before they are slaughtered. About 80 percent of British poultry and pigs are slaughtered using this gas, according to the British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA).

Ranjit Singh Boparan, owner of Bernard Matthews, the world’s largest turkey farm, said earlier this week he needed to find “1,000 more workers to process supplies” or else “Christmas will be canceled” this year .

He added that the CO2 shortage had exacerbated existing supply chain problems caused by a lack of truck drivers, noting that the “empty shelves” of the summer “are widening day by day”.

A source close to the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the government’s decision to grant travel exemptions to seasonal poultry workers was not related to the shortage of carbon dioxide.

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They added that additional workers would help meet the increased demand for poultry ahead of the busy Christmas season.

But trade bodies have warned that the food industry faces the “perfect storm” this winter, as the carbon dioxide shortage has compounded a recent labor shortage sparked by Brexit and the pandemic.

The BMPA last month urged the government to introduce new visa rules for EU workers after a report by Grant Thornton estimated there were 953,000 vacant positions in UK industries, including half in the food and beverage industry.

A spokesperson for the trade organization said I that “there has already been an accumulation of animals because the CO2 crisis has only exacerbated an already existing problem”.

Cattle cannot enter the food chain if they are not slaughtered in a licensed abattoir, which means farmers face the difficult prospect of having to slaughter animals if there is a significant backlog. .

“We have a permanent problem of labor shortage and it is not improving,” added the spokesperson.

“So many industries are now experiencing the same problem of labor shortages that, of course, different industries are now competing for the same workers.”

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