There will be a temporary stoppage of fruit exports from the Alto Valley after a worker in the pest monitoring area of the National Food Health and Quality Service (Senasa) in the Customs and Phytosanitary reservation of Villa Regina tested positive for COVID-19. All of the personnel involved were placed in quarantine.
According to ATE delegate, Cristian Krause, “the pest-monitoring room is closed, a measure that will be maintained at least until Monday. This affects other organizations, packaging, and dispatchers who cannot work due to the stoppage of work at Senasa,” he said, while insisting they had requested that the national body implemented measures to avoid the risk of infection.
Once the coronavirus case was confirmed on Tuesday, August 18, the pest-monitoring room was evacuated and disinfected.
"This is a serious situation because it affects the entire fruit export sector of the Upper Valley, from General Roca to Chichinales, as all pest-monitoring for exports to all destinations -except the United States, which has its own control system- are carried out in this room,” Krause said.
He also said that a work protocol to reduce the risks of contagion had been implemented since the beginning of the restriction measures due to the pandemic, especially taking into account the entry of trucks from Brazil. “This protocol was achieved after a staff strike, and after the provincial government requested workers were compartmentalized. Unfortunately, the director of Senasa's North Patagonia Regional Center, Ricardo Sanchez, didn't implement this protocol," Krause stated.
The protocol he referred to, was that each work area of the organization would always carry out its functions in the same sector. “This didn't happen in the case of the pest monitoring area. 4 of its 8 workers are on leave due to risk factors and were replaced; but this group was sent to carry out controls on different packages, thereby increasing the risk of contagion. Now we are paying the price for consequences,” he added.