Covid travel rules eased to avoid Christmas turkey shortage

18 November 2020

The government has relaxed travel rules on people arriving in England to work on poultry farms following fears Christmas diners would go short of turkey.

The Department for Transport, the Department for Health and Social Care and Public Health England agreed that from Tuesday, seasonal workers from abroad could work during their 14-day quarantine but would still be required to isolate outside the workplace.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the new measures would ensure food producers can “keep up with the Christmas demand”.

To avoid spreading coronavirus poultry workers will have to form “cohorts” to ensure they only live and work with a select group of the same workers during their stay and do not mix with other employees or the general public.

Last month the British Poultry Council (BPC) warned British households could face a shortage of Christmas turkeys unless the government was prepared to grant exemptions from quarantine restrictions to seasonal foreign workers.

The BPC said failing to admit seasonal workers from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia to the UK in the run up to Christmas could see diners going without turkeys or facing soaring costs.

Lack of enough UK-based workers with training and qualifications to slaughter and process Christmas turkeys mean the industry is heavily reliant on licensed EU workers.

The government said its decision would ensure poultry farmers, in particular turkey farmers, would have access to the necessary workforce to mitigate any potential risks to Christmas food supply.

All seasonal poultry workers will be required to leave England by 31 December 2020.

Shapps said: “Christmas dinner is the highlight of the year for many families and this year it will be particularly significant.

“Businesses up and down the country have faced unprecedented challenges from coronavirus and these measures will ensure UK farmers and food producers are supported and able to keep up with the Christmas demand over the festive period.”

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