Posted Apr 2020
The COVID-19 restrictions recently introduced have now been extended for a further three weeks to 5 May.
The Regulations setting out these restrictions are provided for under Statutory Instrument 121 of 2020 (the Regulations) introduced under Section 5 of the Health Act 1947 as amended by the Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 (the 2020 Act). The Regulations impose very onerous, though necessary, restrictions on farmers and land owners in the operation of their business.
Section 4 of the Regulations baldly states:-
An applicable person shall not leave his or her place of residence without reasonable excuse.
“applicable person” means a person whose place of residence is located within a relevant geographical location;
A “Reasonable excuse” allows you to leave your house to –
(a) provide, or assist in the provision of, an essential service, whether paid or not,
(b) go to an essential retail outlet for the purpose of obtaining items (including food, beverages, fuel, medicinal products, medical devices or appliances, other medical or health supplies or products, essential items for the health and welfare of animals, or supplies for the essential upkeep and functioning of the relevant residence), or accessing services provided in the outlet, for the applicable person or any other person residing in the relevant residence,
Similar provisions apply if you need to get the same items for a Vulnerable person
Agriculture which comprises agriculture, horticulture, forestry, fishing, animal welfare and related services is deemed to be an Essential Service. The range of services are:
b) Farm labour
c) Farm services
d) Crop and animal production
e) Fishing for commercial purposes
f) Agriculture and fish farming
i) Veterinary, animal welfare and related services
There is also a catch all phrase that covers the provision of support services in relation to any of the above plus AI services and animal disposal.
If you are travelling outside your home to either provide the essential services allowed for under Agriculture or assist in the provisions of these essential services you are likely to be stopped at a checkpoint by An Garda Siochana.
It will be sensible to have the following:-
1. Photo ID such as a driving licence or passport.
2. Some evidence or document showing where your residence is. A utility bill or letter from the bank will suffice.
3. Evidence that you are a farmer engaged in the essential service or someone assisting in the provision of the essential service. if the latter then obtain a letter from your employer setting out the nature of the business and confirming you are employed and are engaged in an essential service. The employee should also have ID as outlined above.
4. An IFA membership card or similar from other farm organisations together with a letter from the Department of Agriculture would be likely to suffice as evidence you are a farmer.
5. It would be prudent to have proof for the garda showing that the activity that you are on is an essential service.
As this is all new, there are no judicial decisions yet given on what constitutes “Essential Services”. Given the seriousness of the circumstances giving rise to the introduction of the Regulations there is a prospect that a Court will seek to define “Essential Service” within a narrow framework.
Samples of an Essential Service where you are likely to be out and about could be as follows:-
• Travelling to the mart to buy and sell animals
• Going to the Co-op store to pick up farm supplies that are needed now;
• Travelling to a garage or mechanic to get a vehicle repaired or pick up a replacement part that is needed to complete farm activities now
• Attending an out farm to check on livestock
• Check and/or carry out other farming activities
Ask yourself can your journey wait until the restrictions are lifted (whether by the 5th of May or later) or can you get it delivered?. If the answer if “Yes” then you journey may not be deemed to form part of an Essential Service
To reiterate, An Garda Siochana have very broad powers. The failure to provide your name and address, follow the directions or a breach of the obligation to stay at home can lead to arrest and detention and on summary conviction up to six months in prison or €2,500 fine.
If your business is operated as a company and you have sent your employees out and they are found to be in breach of the Regulations then the company and the directors personally can be prosecuted.
The Regulations give farmers a broad range of latitude to operate outside the relevant residence for obvious reasons. Given the importance of the restrictions in slowing down and assisting in eliminating the spread of COVID-19 farmers should, if their task takes them away from their relevant residence on an essential service, at all times observe the HSE and government directions in relation to hand sanitising, social distancing etc.
Further helpful advice can be found at:-
If you have any queries on this topic please contact James Staines on 087 2735934 or email@example.com for further advise
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The COVID-19 restrictions recently introduced have now been extended for a further three weeks to 5 May. The Regulations setting out these restrictions are provided for under Statutory Instrument 121 of 2020 (the Regulations) introduced under Section 5 of the Health Act 1947 as amended by the Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency MeasuresRead More
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