Shared travel and housing ‘believed’ to have contributed to Covid-19 clusters

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said it is “believed that travel and accommodation played a part” in causing Covid-19 clusters in congregated settings, including meat plants.

Speaking at the meeting of the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response yesterday (Wednesday, August 26), Minister Donnelly said that “it is a combination of factors” that led to the recent spike in cases in Co. Kildare.

“Nearly half of the workplace clusters had been in meat processing plants [before the spike in Co. Kildare],” he said.

It is believed that travel may have played a part, in terms of workers sharing commutes to and from work.

“It is believed accommodation also played a part in terms of congregated settings. When I ask the public health experts [about] this; they are at pains to say that there are a lot of other unknown factors.”

‘The only thing to blame is a deadly virus’

Minister Donnelly said that it is “very important in trying to identify what happened, [that] we do not lay blame anywhere”.

“There may have been a super-spreader or several super-spreaders, but they [public health experts] do not know that.

“The only thing to blame is a deadly virus and we are in the middle of a global pandemic.”

The minister added that he wants to see “as many inspections as possible” in meat plants, to “make sure high-risk workplaces in particular are compliant with the protocols that have been put in place”.

“My preference is for unannounced inspections, for obvious reasons,” he said.

22 of 23 inspections carried out unannounced in August

22 out of 23 Covid-19 inspections carried out by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in meat processing plants in August so far have been unannounced, the Minister for Health also revealed yesterday.

The controversy over inspections being carried out in meat plants unannounced has been ongoing throughout the pandemic.

Less than a fortnight ago, AgriLand discovered that every announced Covid-19 inspection carried out by the HSA took place in meat processing plants, AgriLand can reveal.

99% of all Covid-19 inspections/investigations carried out in workplaces were unannounced since the commencement of the easing of restrictions across the country.

Only 23% of inspections/investigations carried out in meat plants were unannounced.