A worker at Northern Irish meat producer Moy Park has died after contracting Covid-19, a trade unionist said.
The woman, in her 50s, was a member of the production staff at the company’s site in Dungannon in Co Tyrone.
There is no suggestion that the firm was at fault and it said “robust” measures have been put in place to keep workers safe.
Sean McKeever, regional officer for Unite the union, said: “Unite has now confirmed that a worker based in Moy Park Dungannon has died following contracting the Covid-19 virus.
“This is devastating news and we would like to extend our condolences to her friends and family.”
Moy Park is one of Northern Ireland’s main chicken producers.
It previously said it had identified seven measures aimed at enhancing social distancing, including staff taking staggered breaks and re-spacing communal areas and work stations as well as installing screens on production lines.
Urgent action needed by Stormont Ministers after Moy Park worker dies from Covid-19 and clusters of infection reported at a growing number ofÂ poultry and meatpacking sites â Unite the Union, Ireland Region https://t.co/STSJebylQu— Unite the Union NI (@UniteunionNI) May 11, 2020
Mr McKeever said Stormont ministers should act urgently to bring forward an emergency response to what it said is a rising number of Covid-19 clusters in workplaces in the poultry and meat industries.
He said the woman’s death had sadly not come as a huge surprise.
“The Northern Ireland Executive must act now before it is too late. We don’t want to see a repeat of their inaction that led to the crisis and avoidable deaths in our care homes.
“There are particular challenges in meat processing factories which mean they need a sector-specific strategy.
“We want to avoid the risk of the industry facing the same crisis as in the USA and Brazil, where tens of thousands of workers have caught this virus.”
The Health and Safety Executive NI said: “HSENI sympathises with the family and friends of the Moy Park employee who has tragically passed away. Discussions are currently ongoing with the employer to understand the circumstances.”
The HSENI said there had been a recent unannounced inspection at a Moy Park processing plant, adding: “A few minor issues were found but the overall compliance with the PHA (Public Health Agency) Covid-19 guidance was found to be of a high standard. This approach will continue.”
A spokeswoman for Moy Park said the company was “deeply saddened” by the death of one of its staff.
“The terrible impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to greatly affect everyone’s daily lives throughout our community,” she said.
“As we have consistently stated, the health, wellbeing and safety of our Moy Park team members is always our most important consideration.”
The company claimed Unite had made inaccurate claims.
It said it had implemented measures that were leading the way for food processors, including the installation of Perspex screens, social distancing and additional protective equipment.
The spokeswoman added: “These measures have been in place for some time at all our sites and are stringently followed. These are also exactly the type of measures that Government guidance is now calling for as other industries return to work.
“We continue to consult, evolve and review our measures to ensure rigorous safety, for example, we are in the process of introducing thermal temperature scanning of all team members as they arrive at work.”
She said Moy Park adhered strictly to all official guidelines, advice and protocols.
“We have received positive feedback following a recent unannounced inspection by the HSE that was conducted at one of our other sites, which has the same measures in place to those at Dungannon,” she added.
“The inspection focused solely on the controls which we have in place to ensure employee safety in relation to Covid-19. We will continue to update our procedures in line with their guidance.
“We work tirelessly to protect the safety of our team and we formally review the situation daily. Finally, we just want to say how incredibly proud we are of all of our people, who truly deserve the name of being food heroes, as they aim to help feed the nation during this crisis.”