Kepak establishes Covid-19 response team after more than 120 employees test positive at Cork plant

Kepak establishes Covid-19 response team after more than 120 employees test positive at Cork plant
Pic; Larry Cummins

A COVID-19 response team has been established at the Kepak meat plant in Watergrasshill to implement guidelines and protocols for staff.

More than 120 staff at the 650-employee factory tested positive last week for the virus, while other workers have been told to self isolate after coming into contact with infected workers.

In a statement, Kepak said today: "At Kepak, the health and safety of our staff, customers and suppliers is our top priority. As such, since early March, we have implemented a wide and comprehensive range of Covid-19 control measures, including physical distancing and additional hygiene protocols, at all of our 13 locations across Ireland and the UK. The Group has also established a Covid-19 Response Team at each of its sites, tasked with implementing the wide-ranging protocols and control measures to protect our employees who are officially designated as essential workers."

The statement continued: "Kepak is in constant contact with all staff members through its site Employee Forums to ensure that they understand and are fully satisfied with the significant changes that have been made to work routines for their safety. Feedback to date from staff members has been positive and supportive of the safety measures that have been implemented."

Kepak says it is providing advice and support, in conjunction with the HSE, to any staff member who needs to self-isolate due to either a positive result or being a close contact of a confirmed case.

The company said its plants have remained open through the pandemic because it has been deemed an essential service provider, to keep the food supply chain moving.

It continued: "In Ireland, the Group’s individual site management teams have been in regular and close contact with the regional HSE teams; the HSE have reviewed our protocols and procedures and has expressed themselves as being very satisfied with them. The Group has also worked in close collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, both with their supervisory staff at our processing sites and with the Department’s senior management through the aegis of our sector representative body, Meat Industry Ireland."

Agriculture Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, along with Business Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation Heather Humphreys and Health Minister Simon Harris, will be questioned in the Dáil next Thursday about the situation in the meat plants.

Independent TD Denis Naughten has been raising concerns about the industry since the first cases started to emerge in recent weeks in meat at meat plants in Westmeath, Tipperary, and Offaly.

Kepak said all staff members returning to work are fully adhering to HSE return to work guidelines.

It also said the company has a Covid-19 policy document which is available in several languages.

The statement concluded: "Kepak continues to review and modify its response to the Covid-19 situation, ensuring all measures implemented are aligned to the most up to date public health advice."

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