Information for Farmers on COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 that can affect your lungs, airways and other organs. Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses that cause illnesses such as the common cold.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 has undergone genetic mutations over time as it adapts to humans.

 

Some of these mutations, such as the Delta variant, can spread more easily than the original virus, may cause more severe disease, and may evade vaccine-derived immunity.

How worried should I be?

The current chances of catching COVID-19 in New Zealand are low so long as you take precautions and follow the advice from the Ministry of Health.

 

For most people, the virus causes only mild symptoms. You are at the greatest risk of infection if you have had face-to-face contact with someone confirmed as having COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to a range of other respiratory illnesses such as influenza (‘flu) and do not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19. Symptoms can include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.

 

Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

How is COVID-19 spread?

The scientific evidence confirms that COVID-19 is spread by droplets. This means that when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, they may generate droplets containing the virus. These droplets are too large to stay in the air for long, so they quickly settle on surrounding surfaces. Droplet spread diseases can be spread by:

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Close personal contact
  • Contact with an object or surface with viral particles on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

How to Stay Safe

You can help manage risk to your people and your business at all times by:
  • Maintaining rigorous hygiene practices
  • Washing/cleaning hands regularly with warm water and soap and promote awareness of the need to maintain these good hygiene practices when away from the farm too
  • No sharing of gloves or helmets. Every member of the team needs to have their own PPE and stick with it
  • If you need to cough or sneeze, do it in your elbow and away from other people
  • Wear a mask
  • Educating your team around the risk of COVID-19 and ensuring they understand the Delta strain is more virulent. If anyone feels unwell, please stay at home 
  • Where possible, use technology rather than meeting in person, e.g. WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger, Facetime, Zoom, Skype etc.
  • Getting vaccinated and encouraging your workers to get vaccinated too
  • Ensuring you have your QR code poster in a visible place for all staff and any visitors to scan
  • Anyone with a runny nose, cough, fever or difficulty breathing should stay home and contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or contact their GP, including phoning ahead of their visit. If your or any of your staff have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but have not been tested, or have hot had the test results, you should stay home/tell them to stay home until they have been tested and have a negative result.


You can help manage risk of infection on your farm by:

  • Under Alert Level 4 and 3, establishing work 'bubbles' and ensuring individual bubbles are kept separate
  • Maintaining physical distancing
  • Ensuring masks are worn
  • Where possible, ensure safe travel arrangements such as travelling in your bubble, where appropriate/necessary
  • Regularly disinfect where workplace gatherings may take place such as smoko rooms and changing rooms.

Vaccinations

We encourage everyone on-farm including workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine is safe and free. You’ll need two doses.

Studies show that about 95% of people who have received both doses of the vaccine are protected against getting COVID-19 symptoms. This means that once you are fully vaccinated, you are far less likely to fall seriously ill and less likely to transmit the virus to others.

The vaccine side effects are mostly mild to moderate, and similar to the side effects that you may experience with other common vaccines.

The most common side effects are:

  • Pain and soreness where you get injected
  • Fatigue
  • Headache.

You can find out the nearest vaccination site to you here.

Cleaning practices

Ongoing good hygiene is important to help manage the risk of any possible transmission of COVID-19 – for instance from a person who may not be showing any symptoms. Regular thorough workplace cleaning should include a strong focus on any surfaces that people touch. The disinfectant used in farrowing rooms is ideal for this purpose.  Pay particular attention to shared areas such as smoko rooms, bathrooms, changing rooms and common touchpoints on vehicles or motorbikes


What to do if you or someone who works on the farm has COVID-19

You need to think about what you would doin the event of you or any of your workers testing positive for COVID-19 or being exposed to an infected person. It’s important to have contingency plans in place around how you would manage this. You should talk to contractors, neighbours and friends about how you might support each other.

This should take into account:

  • How you can cover a labour gap if you or any of your staff are unwell or are required to self-isolate or enter MIQ or hospital
  • How you would ensure your stock are looked after, in the event of your or any of your team becoming infected with COVID-19 or having to isolate.

If you or someone on-farm tests positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by the local public health unit and provided with advice – this advice will include what the person who has COVID-19 has to do and what their close contacts need to do.  You will need to:

  • Inform other staff members/close contacts about the positive test result. Everybody the unwell person lives with must stay at home. Close contacts are also required to self-isolate. Read more about this here
  • Contact your wholesaler immediately so that appropriate control measures are put in place, and to manage the risk to others. There is no evidence to date that COVID-19 is transmissible via food or food products
  • Ensure team members know they must not visit the person who has COVID-19 or anyone who has been a close contact of an infected person and is self-isolating. It is okay for friends, family, whānau or delivery drivers to drop off food and supplies but items must be left outside the door
  • Ensure all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected prior to work continuing on site. The appropriate personal protection equipment must be worn during cleaning. This may mean agreeing not to go near potentially contaminated surfaces, for up to 72hrs. See here for information on survival of coronaviruses on different surfaces and the use of effective sanitisers.(DairyNZ)

Managing staff who are isolating

If you or a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, health officials will contact you to discuss what this situation means for you and your staff. It is best practice that the unwell person goes on sick leave but other options are available. You may be able to access a wage subsidy to assist with this. Read more about these options here.

You should also:

  • Keep checking in, by telephone, on any staff member who is self-isolating about both their physical and mental health
  • Keep records, including dates. This is a requirement as COVID-19 is a notifiable disease.

For any employment questions, visit the Federated Farmers link here.

Information for farmers affected by Alert Level boundaries restrictions

At times, different regions may be at different alert levels, with regional boundaries in place to travel to or from affected areas. Travel across alert level boundaries during alert levels 4 and 3 is permitted in some circumstances including for personal travel to access services/care for animals, and for worker travel. Key points to note are:

  • If you, your workers or contractors such as vets need to travel across the alert level boundary for work, then registration is required. The MBIE’s website here includes information about permitted travel, the business travel register, the boundary and exemptions
  • You cannot re-use the travel documents you received during previous alert level changes. In a new heightened alert level situation/boundary announcement, you will need to reapply for new documents
  • Applications for business travel exemptions can be made here.

Some key points for those registering for business travel are:

  • Only one person per entity is required to complete the application, which can cover multiple workers/employees/contractors (e.g. specialist vets) connected to the farm
  • The person making the application must have a RealMe login to start the application process. (If you don’t have a RealMe Login, you can apply for one here
  • Successful applications will receive an email with confirmation for each person listed in the application and a QR code for each worker
  • When travelling, workers should have a printed copy of their Business Travel Documents, or an electronic copy available on their smart phone so police can verify the document to make travel across the alert level boundary as quick as possible
  • Other documentation such as letters from employers confirming workers are essential workers, plus photo ID, must also be carried at all times
  • All occupants of a vehicle (as per Level 4 restrictions) must have travel documents and ID.

Travel across alert level boundaries will be very limited and any of your staff who can work remotely should do so. Businesses must have systems and processes in place to minimise travel across the boundary or between regions within an alert level area.

The Government requires essential workers moving over the Auckland boundary to be tested.

That means those crossing the boundary will need to show proof that they have been tested for COVID-19 in the last seven days – but not the result.

We recognise this is a complicated process. If you have any difficulties, please get in touch with a member of the NZPork team – we’re here to help.

Financial support

The Government's Wage Subsidy Scheme is available for businesses across New Zealand impacted by the lockdown. The scheme allows eligible employers anywhere in the country to apply for support if they expect a loss of 40 per cent of revenue as a result of the alert level increase. See more details here.

Animal welfare

It is MPI’s expectation that we maintain our high standards in the pork sector. Please remain vigilant and take action in the event of any animal welfare issues on-farm. Pig vets are available to support farmers so please contact them in the first instance. Please alert Kirsty Chidgey K.L.Chidgey@massey.ac.nz as soon as possible, if you require guidance.

PigCare audits

If your area is at alert Level 3 or 4  and you have an upcoming PigCare audit, please talk to your auditor to discuss making alternative arrangements. If you postpone your audit, it will not affect your PigCare status if your audit becomes overdue. Please talk to Maitland Manning maitland.manning@pork.co.nz, if you have any questions.

In the event of a one-on-one discussion, please maintain the requirements for physical distancing and hygiene when on-farm during this period.

More information

COVID-19 presents ongoing challenges and it is important that we look after each other, keep up to date with developments and any locations of interest and follow advice. Rural Support is also always available on 0800787 254 or www.rural-support.org.nz.

Useful sources of information about operating safely are:

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment(MBIE) Unite Against COVID-19 website: This includes detailed information on requirements for each alert level: https://covid19.govt.nz/

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) COVID-19 website: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/covid-19-information-and-advice/

The Ministry of Health (MoH) website, including up to date information on alert levels, testing locations, vaccines, case numbers and locations of interest: www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus