FACED with rising numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths in his home area of Dumfries and Galloway, NFU Scotland president, Andrew McCornick, has used his latest blog to make this heart-felt plea for the farming industry to do its bit in helping to beat the virus:

'With Covid-19 cases rising as fast as at any time during this pandemic, farmers and crofters need to be more concerned now about the safety of themselves, their families and their staff than ever before.

At home, in Dumfries and Galloway, in the past week we have gone from Tier 1 with low incidence, to the worst rate per 100,000 population in Scotland and I am being told by members across the country that it is now much more prevalent in rural settings than it was earlier last year.

It is essential that everyone takes appropriate measures to stop the spread. I urge you to re-visit the guidance for farmers and crofters produced by Scottish Government.

This spike has shown why we need to avoid complacency and keep our guard up, particularly if we want to keep our businesses running and our stock looked after.

Many farmers and crofters are experts at biosecurity. Many have good biosecurity measures in place and that puts them in a good place for dealing with the virus. We encourage everyone to revisit and consider their biosecurity measures.

Good practices, such as limiting the number of people having access to the farm, and recording who comes on and when, are things we should be taking note of now.

We also need to plan for the worst, whilst hoping for the best by having a contingency plan for scenarios where yourself, your family or your workforce get infected, or required to self-isolate.

Essential farm staff are recognised as key workers and if they are travelling to the farm it is advisable that you give them a letter to produce if asked showing their journey is essential. It is also essential they recognise they are part of your farm 'bubble' and accommodate that within their off-farm lives.

Christmas and New Year was difficult for all not being able to have the usual festivities with family and friends, and this spike suggests that compliance was far from universal.

The virus is invisible and you cannot tell who has it, or is transmitting it, but you can and should take measures to reduce infection by observing the rules during this, yet another, challenging lockdown and making it hard for the virus to find any host to spread and survive.

We have stood by our pledge to keep food and drink on the tables throughout the pandemic, and that has been delivered from farmgate to shop shelf through hard work and adherence to the rules.

Keeping our markets, abattoirs and processing going throughout the Covid-19 outbreak has been a major achievement, but this new variant of the virus and the latest spike means the need for compliance is even more essential if we are to avoid closures or partial shutdowns at these essential sites.

I urge you to read the latest guidance for those attending markets at: https://iaas.co.uk/iaas-updates-covid-19-auction-mart-guidance-january-2021/

Trade for cattle and sheep remains strong, so any disruption will have severe consequences. If farmers and staff are careless, then markets could be shut down, close contacts quarantined and businesses fined for breaking the regulations.

Do not forget biosecurity at home to keep yourself, staff, and family safe.

Stopping the spread starts with all of us including farmers and crofters. You should:

  • Wear a face covering
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Clean hands and surfaces regularly
  • Stay two metres away from other people
  • Self-isolate and book a test if you have Covid-19 symptoms (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste)
  • Download the Protect Scotland contact tracing app.

Do not consider this virus an inconvenience. It can be, and has been, fatal in many families,so please be considerate of others as well as yourself and obey the rules."