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Agri laboratories switch focus to Covid-19 testing


File photo (Ben Birchall/PA)

File photo (Ben Birchall/PA)

File photo (Ben Birchall/PA)

The farm sector moved into the front line of the Covid-19 battle this week, with the Department of Agriculture's laboratories at Backweston near Celbridge now testing for the deadly virus.

It is anticipated that testing at Backweston will be scaled up over the coming weeks, with further support being provided by the Department's regional veterinary laboratories.

The regional laboratories are on standby to support specimen transport from testing centres to laboratories if required.

Teagasc is also providing testing and support for the Covid-19 effort, with laboratory personnel from Grange, Ashtown and Oakpark volunteering to help in virus testing.

A spokesman for the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, insisted that the Department will continue to provide the laboratory supports that are essential to ensuring food safety and disease control.

However, he pointed out that much of the Department's expertise in disease identification and control was being mobilised for the Covid-19 battle.


"The agri-food sector has significant laboratory testing capacity across public and private sector laboratories, including significant capacity in the type of testing used to confirm infection with the Covid-19 virus," the spokesman said.

Department laboratories have been engaging with the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) in UCD to facilitate its efforts to meet the surge in demand for Covid-19 testing, he explained.

The spokesman said the Department is also supporting private laboratory groups working in the farm sector that are now transferring over to Covid-19 related operations.

One such company is the Enfer Group in Naas, which is contracted to carry out the BVD testing on calf tissue samples has recently added additional laboratories and staff to assist the NVRL with Covid-19 testing.

Enfer continues to provide it’s full calf BvD testing service in it’s laboratories in Naas.

Meanwhile, all available personal protection equipment (PPE) held by Teagasc laboratories is being transferred to frontline medical staff.

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