The Government is to move the entire country to the highest alert level of its coronavirus defence - Level 5. The change will take effect on Wednesday at midnight.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced that the restrictions will apply for six weeks.
Level 5 was advised by NPHET two weeks ago and, at that time, the Department of Agriculture told the Irish Farmers Journal that essential services, which includes many agri industries, may require an evaluation of their risk mitigation measures to ensure their continued effectiveness in the face of new challenges.
Pending any new updates, here is the existing Government advice about Level 5 from a farming point of view.
How will agriculture be affected?
Most agricultural suppliers are considered to be essential retail. The Government’s indicative list of essential retail outlets includes:
Can I get veterinary supplies?
Veterinary supply shops and co-ops are expected to revert to their call and collect or click and collect systems only.
What about machinery and parts?
Machinery dealerships will likely return to the appointment-only service for essential repairs and parts in which their staff will not meet any farmer directly.
What about marts?
The Irish Farmers Journal understands that the Department of Agriculture expects marts to remain open, but subject to revised operating procedures.
These will see sellers being only allowed to drop animals off and not enter the mart.
Under Level 5, all trading will be conducted online.
However, buyers will be allowed access to the lairage – by appointment only – at a dedicated time before the auction commences.
No buyers will be allowed access to the ring, with only the drover and auctioneer in attendance when animals are being sold.
Arrangement for livestock marts in level 5: sales will move to online only; sellers to drop animals off, buyers can be facilitated to inspect stock in pens by appointment, but bidding process is online only.— Charlie McConalogue (@McConalogue) October 19, 2020
ICOS marts executive Ray Doyle told the Irish Farmers Journal that the vast majority of marts are set up for online auctions and he envisages a limited number of buyers or their agents being allocated viewing slots in the lairage for an hour prior to sale.
Will meat factories and dairy processors be closed?
Food production and the food chain has always been a priority to maintain and meat processing and dairy processing will again be considered essential services.
What about farmers aged over 70?
The Government advice is that everyone aged over 70 years and the medically vulnerable should exercise judgement regarding the extent to which they engage with others and in activities outside home. It may issue more specific advice in the coming days.
Can I move outside the 5km distance limit?
Farmers and anyone providing essential care to animals are allowed to go beyond the 5km radius, but only for essential tasks. This is the same as the March lockdown.
Can I meet my family, neighbours or friends?
It is understood that the rules will allow people to meet up outdoors with one other household, but away from their home and within the 5km limit.
People who live alone and are at risk of social isolation can form a "support bubble" with another household.
The Government has said the following services relating to agriculture, horticulture, forestry, fishing, animal welfare and related services are essential:
(b) farm labour;
(c) farm relief services;
(d) crop and animal production;
(e) fishing for commercial purposes;
(f) aquaculture and fish farming;
(i) veterinary, animal welfare and related services;
(j) marts held online only;
(k) the provision of support services relating to any of the services specified in subparagraphs (a) to (j) (including artificial insemination and animal disposal).
Got questions about how Level 5 will affect your farm? Send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will endeavour to have the answers in the Irish Farmers Journal this Thursday 22 October.