The meat processing and exporting industry is calling on the Government to prioritise its workforce for Covid-19 vaccinations, Meat Industry Association (MIA) says.
The processing sector was recognised as a high-risk industry for transmission of Covid-19, due to the large numbers of people working closely together, MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said.
Australia and the United States had already prioritised meat processing workers for vaccination because Covid-19 spread extremely rapidly in processing plants, Karapeeva said.
"US research has found that processing plants acted as transmission vectors, accelerating the spread of the virus into the surrounding population."
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Karapeeva said the New Zealand red meat industry took "decisive action" to proactively develop and implement safety protocols.
"[These] provided guidance and a minimum standard to enable our processors to continue safely operating," she said.
However, there was no room for complacency, Karapeeva said.
"It is absolutely critical that we fortify our first line of defence, both for the safety and wellbeing of workers and communities and to safeguard the red meat sector's significant contribution to the New Zealand economy, which is now heavily reliant on our export revenue."
Most processors had nurses on site or arrangements with local medical centres so were well positioned to undertake large scale vaccination programmes quickly, Karapeeva said.