Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association (MIA), said the processing sector was recognised as a high-risk industry for transmission of Covid-19 due to the large number of people working closely together.
“Australia and the United States have already prioritised meat processing workers for vaccination because Covid-19 spread extremely rapidly in processing plants,” Karapeeva says.
She says that research from the United States found processing plants were prime places for transmission, accelerating the spread of the virus into the surrounding population.
“The New Zealand red meat industry took decisive action to proactively develop and implement safety protocols, which provide guidance and a minimum standard to enable our processors to continue safely operating.
“However, there is no room for complacency.”
Karapeeva says it is imperative that the industry fortify its first line of defence, to safeguard the wellbeing of its workers as well as the sector’s contribution to the New Zealand economy.
She says that most processors have nurses on site or arrangements with local medical centres and are therefore well equipped to quickly undertake a large scale vaccination programme.