The Health Service Executive (HSE) has established a multi-agency group to look at the current Covid-19 outbreaks in the meat processing industry, according to independent TD Denis Naughten.

Naughten welcomed the HSE’s announcement, following his request at a meeting with HSE management last Wednesday, May 6.

‘Need for greater support’

Commenting, the independent TD for Roscommon-Galway said:

“While work is ongoing across the country to address specific clusters of Covid-19 infection associated with meat plants and asylum centres, it was clear from my engagement with communities and public health staff that there was a need for far greater support at national level and I’m thankful to the HSE for acting swiftly on my request.”

The TD asked HSE management to establish a national coordination team to “deal specifically with the situation”.

In addition, he asked that the team would ensure that staff, particularly non-Irish staff, are given the proper information in person and in documentation in their native language.

HSE response

“Responding to this, Dr. Philip Crowley, the HSE’s acting national co-lead of the public health response to Covid-19, accepted that efforts need to be taken to protect this specific industry and acknowledged that it is more difficult to provide for social distancing in such facilities.

He has now followed up on this by confirming to me that the HSE has established a multi-agency group to look at the meat processing industry and the current outbreaks. Part of its remit will be to focus on community support in the areas affected.

“We have seen the impact of the delay in reacting to Covid-19 infections in nursing homes and I now welcome the more pro-active approach being taken to ensure that we do not have a similar story in our meat processing facilities or asylum centres across the country,” deputy Naughten said.

“We have seen the impact of the failure to take action in the US where meat processing has ground to a halt – but this would have a far bigger impact in Ireland where it could lead to a second wave of Covid-19 infections in communities where there has been a low level of infection to date,” the TD concluded.