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NPHET to discuss coronavirus outbreak in meat factories

Statistics suggest 828 workers in the sector have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

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Stock picture of meat being prepared (Julien Behal/PA)

Stock picture of meat being prepared (Julien Behal/PA)

Stock picture of meat being prepared (Julien Behal/PA)

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is to discuss the outbreak of Covid-19 in meat factories on Friday as it emerged 828 workers have been diagnosed across the country.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) said there are 16 outbreaks in meat factories as of last Saturday.

The HSE has established a National Outbreak Control Team and specific guidance has been issued to all effected factories.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said that the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will inspect meat factories and all other workplaces to ensure that firms are complying with the back-to-work protocol.

“Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with the chairperson of the HSE’s national outbreak control team Dr Mai Mannix,” he told the Dail.

“Preliminary estimates from that team indicate that so far between 55% to 60% of employees in meat factories who’ve been diagnosed with Covid-19 have thankfully now recovered and returned to work.

“(NPHET) will consider the issue of meat factories further at its meeting tomorrow and I will await any advice or recommendations from them and indeed share them with the public and this House.

“Let me be very clear though, if an employee is unwell or has any symptoms of this virus, they must not go to work and they should contact their GP to seek advice on a test.

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Minister for Health Simon Harris (LeoN Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

Minister for Health Simon Harris (LeoN Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

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Minister for Health Simon Harris (LeoN Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

“If people cannot self isolate, measures must be put in place and can be put in place to ensure that they can isolation, and we are using our facility at the City West in this regard.”

Mr Harris said that the reproduction number, the number of people an infected person infects, was now between 0.45 and 0.63.

He said that 16,064 confirmed Covid-19 cases, which amount to almost 59%, did not have an underlying health condition.

Mr Harris has also said he is keeping “an open mind” regarding the Government’s takeover of private hospitals during the pandemic.

There were calls from TDs in the Dail on Thursday to review the deal as it costing 115 million euro per month as the expected surge in coronavirus cases has not materialised.

Mr Harris said: “While I have growing optimism we are getting through this Covid-19 pandemic, there has been awful loss of life and pain has been caused.

“Our next big challenge is going to be secondary deaths.”

“On the private hospitals, we took them over if you like for a purpose – if that purpose now changes, we have to be big enough and brave enough to change it so I do have an open mind on that.”

“There is a structural review process to go through that will involve my department, the department of public expenditure and others.

“That is starting now and running until the end of June and I do approach that with an open mind.

“I do believe extra capacity and how we use it is a discussion point we should have.”

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