EU Covid surge threatens to create meat shortage at Christmas: ‘No choice of alternatives’

Mask wearing 'could save 160,000 European lives' says expert

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EU Covid surge is threatening a meat shortage over the festive period, causing plans to save Christmas dinner by introducing more foreign butchers into the UK put at risk of being derailed.

Meat bosses have said plans to bring more foreign butchers into Britain are at risk of being derailed by rising Covid cases across the continent.

Europe was accounting for more than half of all infections globally that are picked up by a test.

Due to rising infections in Europe a new visa scheme, enabling 800 skilled overseas butchers to come to the country for six months, may struggle to attract applications, according to the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA).

Nick Allen, chief executive of the BMPA, said: “Most of these people are still looking like they’re going to be coming from Europe or eastern Europe, and things are changing fast Covid-wise in terms of Europe, so that’s one of the things that could really throw this off course.”

Mr Allen said members of the British Meat Processors Association were having to work hard to “try to get as much ready as soon as possible”.

Companies are trying to avoid empty supermarket shelves during the festive period, following months of worker shortages.

This has caused thousands of pigs to be killed on farms in November rather than killed for their meat.

Mr Allen added the meat industry is focusing on Christmas staples rather than obvious roast choices.

He said: “People have cut down the choices and cut the number of lines to try to keep the volume of products going through.

“There probably won’t be too many shortages on the shelves, but there won’t be the choice of alternatives.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps spoke to Sky News about the new variant Omicron which was first detected in South Africa.

He said: “As scientists have described, [this is] the most significant variant they’ve encountered to date.”

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Ms von der Leyen spoke after EU member state Belgium confirmed a first case of the variant in the country.

Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said: “We have one case of this variant that is confirmed. It’s someone who came from abroad.”

The UK Health Security Agency said that the variant has a spike protein that is dramatically different to the one the original coronavirus vaccines are based on, raising worries about how immunity against the new strain would hold up.

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