Lessons need to be learned over COVID clusters at meat plants

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Lessons need to be learned by meat plants over the clusters of Covid-19 that emerged at factories over the course of the pandemic.

That’s according to Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell, who stated at a meeting of the Special Dáil Committee on Covid-19 Response that the Government was “well aware” of the issue as far back as early March.

She also raised issues with directors of Meat Industry Ireland in relation to temperature checks, data breaches and measures to ensure that there is no further spread of the virus in meat plants.

“SIPTU wrote to the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, on 3rd April warning him of their concerns in this sector if health and safety was not correctly implemented,” said Deputy Farrell.

“They also contacted the HSA on 28th April to ask for inspections. My Sinn Féin colleague, Deputy Stanley, also wrote to the then Minister on 30th April to highlight concerns.

“Given that all of these sections knew of the potential dangers to those who work in meat processing factories, I find it baffling that this was allowed to happen both on a Government level and on a HSA level.”

The Galway TD said that the Meat Industry’s response is that measures were ‘not perfect’ and she said that we need to realise that this was disastrous for the people who worked there and were affected by this.

“We are talking about 1,100 people being infected with Covid-19, a disease that has caused a global pandemic.

“To say that substantial measures were taken from early on and that it was not perfect does not cover the gravity of the situation for the people who work in this sector.”

Deputy Farrell added that in response to questions she put to senior directors of Meat Industry Ireland, she was also told that ‘by and large temperature checking is now a feature of the industry’ but that they ‘do not think every single plant has temperature checking’.

“I’m fully aware that there is a range of measures that need to be taken in order to prevent the spread of this virus but I also feel that temperature checks in all plants is one basic measure that could be easily implemented.

“Given the outbreak of Covid-19 clusters in meat processing plants during this pandemic, it is vital that the industry is held to account at Dáil level to ensure proper protections are put in place to prevent further spread of this virus in coming months.”