Minister ‘aware of’ 6 Covid-19 clusters in meat plants

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has confirmed that he and his department are aware of six clusters of Covid-19 in beef plants – five in processing plants and one in a deboning plant.

The minister revealed the news in response to a parliamentary question in the Dáil last night, Thursday, April 30, from Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture Brian Stanley.

During a debate on the impact of the coronavirus on the agricultural sector, deputy Stanley said: “I particularly want to raise the issue at Rosderra Meats.”

The Laois-Offaly TD claimed that there has been an outbreak of Covid-19 in the company’s Roscrea plant, adding:

There are approximately 350 workers on the factory floor there. Up to 140 of them were out sick throughout last week and 120 tested positive for the virus.

In response to this, Minister Creed said:

“All I can say is that is not the information available to our department.

We have staff in those places and we have contracted temporary veterinary inspectors. I want to say that is certainly not the case on the basis of the information available to me.

Highlighting the measures put in place by the meat industry in response to the Covid-19 crisis, the minister noted these include: social distancing; hand-washing etiquette; perspex screens; reduced throughput; and provision of personal protection equipment (PPE).

“All of these have been part of the response that the industry has been proactive with regard to. This was part of the negotiations we had early on with all the stakeholders in terms of their responsibilities as businesses.”

Asserting that he has been encouraged by the response, Minister Creed said:

There has been engagement by those meat plants. HSE [Health Service Executive] staff and officials from my department have been involved. The feedback to me is that there has been strong cooperation.

“We are aware of six clusters, five in processing plants and one in a deboning plant,” the minister said.