Three Kildare meat plants extend shutdowns amid Covid-19 outbreaks

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Digital Desk staff

Three meat processing plants based in Co Kildare have confirmed they will not be resuming operations tomorrow following major outbreaks of Covid-19 among their employees.

Kildare Chilling in Kildare town, The Irish Dog Foods factory in Naas and O'Brien Fine Foods in Timahoe have all suspended operations.

Their decisions to remain shut came as the head of the HSE called for plants with significant Covid-19 outbreaks to be closed down.

In some cases we’ve had to close down plants, and will do so on public health grounds in the future.

HSE CEO Paul Reid says efforts need to be made to control outbreaks: “We do want to recognise they have put in place a lot of measures, indeed, in a lot of the plants.

“But in some cases we’ve had to close down plants, and will do so on public health grounds in the future.

“There needs to be some consideration about transportation of the workforce. There needs to be some consideration about strong infection prevention and controls, understanding and communication.”

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The counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly have been placed under a two week lockdown in response to the sharp rise in cases in the Midlands region, with many cases linked to meat plant outbreaks and direct provision centres.

Where there are cases, or suspected cases, those plants must be immediately shut down without loss of earnings to the workers.

Greg Ennis of workers’ union SIPTU says that improved conditions will be needed for meat plants to reopen: “We need repeated blanket testing of all meat and food processing workers, in all plants, on a recurring 14 to 21 day basis.

“Where there are cases, or suspected cases, those plants must be immediately shut down without loss of earnings to the workers.

“They must be deep cleaned and sanitised and workers obviously return to work following inspection. We need unannounced health and safety inspections.”

Health officials are expecting significant numbers of new Covid-19 cases in the coming days, as more workers in meat factories are tested, with 110 cases confirmed in Kildare alone yesterday.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has expressed hope that the Midlands lockdown will prevent the meat plant clusters from spreading into the wider community.

One of the Kildare meat plants, O’Brien Fine Foods which runs the Brady’s Ham plant in Timahoe, has said it found the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases among its employees “difficult to comprehend” as more than 80 cases were confirmed among its workers in the past week.

In a statement, the company confirmed it has suspended all operations for a 14 day period with staff continuing to be paid in full.

It has said it plans to test workers every 14 days once full operations resume.

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