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Coronavirus clusters in meat processing plants ‘gravely serious’, says Micheal Martin

National Public Health Emergency Team figures show there have been 10 outbreaks of Covid-19 in meat processing plants, with 566 staff infected.

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was speaking in the Dail (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was speaking in the Dail (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was speaking in the Dail (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has described the number of coronavirus clusters in meat processing plants as “gravely serious”.

The latest figures from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) show there have been 10 outbreaks of Covid-19 in meat processing plants, with 566 staff infected.

Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, Mr Martin said: “The situation with meat plants is gravely serious and it is not obvious that these clusters are being dealt with comprehensively.

More needs to be done on this issue. Health authorities need to visit factory floors to see the realityMicheal Martin, Fianna Fail

“Without calling for the shutting down of the sector, it seems very surprising that the blanket testing of a facility is followed by no interruption of work until the results are returned.”

He said the plants should be closed temporarily so proper cleaning could take place.

“Would it not be reasonable to halt production for a deep clean and putting in place of new control measures while waiting for the results? Simply sending workers back to work and, indeed, not testing their families does not make sense,” he added.

“More needs to be done on this issue. Health authorities need to visit factory floors to see the reality.”

It appears that the Health and Safety Authority and the Government has been asleep at the wheel, carrying out no inspections at the time when we need strict enforcementPaul Murphy, Rise TD

Rise TD Paul Murphy told the Dail he had received official confirmation that 200 complaints had been made about workplace breaches of Covid-19 guidelines.

He said the workplaces included meat plants and that so far no inspections had been carried out by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

“That’s 200 groups of workers potentially working in unsafe conditions, 200 appeals to the HSA falling on deaf ears,” he said.

“It appears that the HSA and the Government has been asleep at the wheel, carrying out no inspections at the time when we need strict enforcement.”

Mr Murphy called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to ensure that such workplaces faced sanctions and that inspections would be carried out.

Mr Varadkar said: “I will make enquiries with the HSA before making any judgment. I’d like to hear their side of the story and find out what their position is. Under the health and safety act, employers in breach of the act can be prosecuted and fined if it is appropriate to do so.”

PA