Hope fizzles for pickers as champagne harvest takes a Covid ...

World

Hope fizzles for pickers as champagne harvest takes a Covid beating

The 2020 haul will be the smallest in 35 years as growers scramble to test desperate seasonal workers

David Chazan

The coronavirus has robbed France’s champagne industry of its sparkle as demand has slumped, and health authorities are now struggling to prevent a new outbreak of Covid-19 among migrant grape pickers.

The arrival of 100,000 seasonal workers, half of them from Eastern Europe, has raised fears of a new outbreak in the Champagne region of northeastern France. The area has so far been largely spared from France’s spike in infections.

Champagne growers say social distancing is impossible and the authorities are trying to forestall a surge in cases by offering pickers free tests at temporary centres. Several outbreaks have begun on farms in the South of France employing migrant fruit pickers, and the testing campaign in Champagne is targeted mainly at detecting infections among foreign seasonal workers...

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