The Health Service Executive (HSE) has been called on by independent TD Denis Naughten to immediately convene its multi-agency group on the meat industry to address flaws in the Covid-19 protection measures and to make recommendations to the National Public Health Emergency Team.

Commenting, the TD for Roscommon-Galway said:

“Ahead of the start of re-opening the economy next week we must address the fundamental problems within the meat processing sector – which could be replicated in other parts of industry and which could be catastrophic.

I have also requested to the Dáil Business Committee that this be discussed in Dáil Eireann next week.

“Since I highlighted this issue in Dáil Eireann two weeks ago flaws have been clearly highlighted in terms of social distancing, lack of clear information on Covid-19 and on self-isolation.

“There have also been numerous reports of staff who were tested for Covid-19 going back to work before they received their results, due to delays in lab results, when clearly there was a problem with infection in the meat plants concerned.”

Deputy Naughten described negative results in such instances as “worthless” because, due to delays in receiving results, staff may have transmitted the virus from asymptomatic colleagues in the intervening period.

He added: “Part of the system failure has been the ongoing delays in issuing test results and fundamental problems with contact tracing that if not addressed now when we have small numbers in employment could set back our health service and undermine business confidence once we start to re-open our economy.

These failures in the system have resulted in new infection clusters in communities across the country which up to now had low levels of Covid-19 infection.

“If these fundamental issues are not addressed immediately, in advance of the easing of the lockdown next Monday, then we could very quickly be looking at a second spike in Covid-19 infections.

“After such heroic efforts by every citizen in the state to stop the spread of this virus we cannot allow a second wave of infection under any circumstances.

“So, while we must remain cautious in how we relax restrictions, we must also learn to live with Covid-19 which will be with us for a considerable time to come,” deputy Naughten concluded.