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All routine farm inspections will be paused until 30 April 2020, Minister Edwin Poots has confirmed.

The move comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is part of the wider effort to reduce the spread of the virus. It also takes pressure off the agri-food sector, which is working extremely hard to ensure the food supply chain keeps moving.

All routine farm inspections in the areas of the Environment, EU Area Based Scheme, Agrifood and Veterinary work, will be paused until 30 April. However essential inspections such as Public Health Risk Sampling, Brucellosis and bTb Surveillance, will continue where possible.

Minister Poots said: “As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to take every reasonable step to protect our customers. We must assess our current work load and look at what is absolutely critical to keep food moving, protect animal welfare and maintain disease control.

“Pausing routine inspections in the short term is necessary to protect farmers and staff and it ensures we can direct the Department’s resources in the best way. It also minimises disruption and provides certainty for farmers at a very difficult time.

“These are exceptional times and our approach must also be exceptional. We won’t get another chance to flatten the COVID-19 curve – we must get this right, right now. I trust that the farming and environment sectors will welcome this news and we continue to work with our stakeholders.”

Where it has been reported or suspected that there has been, or there is likely to be, potential for a significant impact on public health, animal health or pollution of the environment, the pausing of inspections will not apply. In those cases DAERA staff may undertake site inspections on farms (or elsewhere) to assess and resolve any issues.