Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

13.51 9 Aug 2020


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The head of the HSE says some meat processing plants will be closed down by health officials in the future if public health concerns emerge.

Paul Reid said the meat industry has put in place lots of measures in plants to limit coronavirus spread, but that public health teams will make calls about closures of individual sites if and when needed.

He is also said he doesn't believe Ireland is in a second wave of coronavirus cases, despite the recent increase in daily cases.

Mr Reid was speaking after 174 new cases were confirmed yesterday, marking the highest daily number since mid-May.

Clusters in a number of meat factories have been a factor in the spike in new infections in Kildare, Laois and Offaly - the three counties now under a local lockdown for two weeks.

One factory - O'Brien's Fine Foods in Timahoe, Co Kildare - has seen 86 cases confirmed among staff in recent days.

Normal operations at that plant have been halted until 18th August, with the firm today pledging that employees will be tested every 14 days once operations resume.

Kildare Chilling Company - another site which has recently seen a number of cases - has suspended processing operations due to the outbreak.

However, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said it's his personal view that any other meat plants affected by an outbreak also shouldn't open tomorrow.

Speaking on On The Record today, HSE CEO Paul Reid said efforts need to be made to control outbreaks in meat plants.

Public health teams will close down meat plants if needed - Paul Reid

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

He said: "I do want to recognise [management] have put in place a lot of measures in a lot of the plants.

"But in some cases we have had to close down plants, and we'll do so on public health grounds in the future.

"The reality from our perspective is our public health teams will call it. I have full confidence about how they'll call it.

"We have had teams mobilised - testing teams, tracing teams - all over the weekend in those affected areas and others."

'Complex' issues

Mr Reid said the issue of outbreaks in meat plants is a complex issue, with issues such as transportation of workers and infection control measures among those that need to be considered.

He observed: "A lot of the workforce in these plants - non-Irish [workers] in many cases, but not all - [are] primarily sharing accommodation, and transporting to work together.

"In some incidences, people are going into one site and some people going into another site... you have a risk of transmission outside of the plants, and in to the plants.

"There are language barriers which are more complex."

He noted that outside of Kildare, Laois and Offaly the data does not show Ireland being in a second wave or surge of coronavirus, with hospitals and ICUs not seeing major increases in admissions.

However, he said the virus 'doesn't get tired' - so everyone needs to match it with resilience and continued public health measures.

Main image: File photo of HSE CEO Paul Reid. Photo: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

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