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Cork meat plant workers to get 'isolation units' to stop spread of coronavirus

SELF-isolation spaces in Cork are being identified for workers of the Kepak meat plant in Watergrasshill who are unable to self isolate in their own homes.

It is understood a large number of staff at the plant are self-isolating this week after more than 120 employees tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

The plant remains open for business, however.

Sources said that some self-isolation spaces have already been secured while efforts are being made by the HSE’s social inclusion unit for Cork and Kerry to identify some further spaces.

The focus on self-isolation units is because of a large number of non-national workers in the Watergrasshill plant who live in house share arrangements which make it difficult to self isolate.

There are more than 800 meat workers across the country who have now tested positive for Covid-19.

A spokesman for Meat Industry Ireland said that 496 workers, who tested positive, have gone through the appropriate self-isolation, have recovered and have returned back to work.

He added: “All close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases must self-isolate until their quarantine period elapses.

“Return to work protocols for positive cases and close contacts are guided by HSE advice in all instances. “

He continued: “MII is reassured by recent comments of the Chief Medical Officer that there is no current justification for the closure of meat processing plants.

“Businesses will continue to be guided by the expert advice of the health authorities in this regard and will always act in accordance with such expert advice. “

Fine Gael’s Deputy Colm Burke, who is a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 Response, said that everything possible must be done to protect the workers in the meat plants.

He added that it also of vital importance to protect the reputation of the Irish meat trade.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland ruled out any concerns about meat processed in the affected plants.

She told The Echo: “It does not raise food safety concerns, as this is not a food safety issue.

“There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus. “