‘Meat processing facilities seem to be places that Covid loves’ – Minister for Health

“I was not aware of any issues specifically for the three counties [Kildare, Laois and Offaly] but what we were aware of, and what every country is aware of, is that meat processing facilities seem to be places that Covid [19] loves.”

That was the message from the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (pictured above). He was speaking to Jonathan Healy on the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk this morning (Wednesday, August 12).

He said that in March, April, May and June there were 1,100 positive tests for Covid-19 in meat factories in Ireland.

He explained: “We produced a set of protocols and we were the first country in Europe to introduce these protocols and the Health Service Executive [HSE] and the Health and Safety Authority [HSA] have been working very closely on the ground with the employers.

“The result was that in July we had very few cases in the meat processing plants.

What has happened in the meat processing plants in Kildare and Offaly has taken everyone by surprise there is no question about it.

“There is a very comprehensive response on the ground and, as well as that, we are also looking to find out was there something different that happened here.

‘Is this simply something that can happen in this sector?’

Donnelly continued: “We had this huge number of cases literally in a matter of days. Was there something different or is this simply something that can happen in this sector?

“We are looking at the protocols that are in place. We are introducing serial testing and we are doing the same in Direct Provision centres and nursing homes.

This is going to tighten things up; there is no question about that. We need to minimize the risk as we have seen the damage that it can cause.

“We have to have a situation where anyone who feels symptomatic [from Covid-19] – and that means just one symptom – [that] they can immediately raise it to their employer.

“If someone is asymptomatic [then] they are asymptomatic. The only way we can find that out is through serial testing.

“There is weekly serial testing being rolled out across the meat processing plants. We have been doing it in the nursing homes for quite some time.”