Coronavirus: hundreds quarantined after outbreak in Belgian meatpacking plant

Coronavirus: hundreds quarantined after outbreak in Belgian meatpacking plant
© Belga

Hundreds of workers in a meatpacking plant in the Flemish city of Staden have been placed in quarantine after a coronavirus cluster was detected in the factory.

Around 225 workers were sent into self-isolation after 18 staff members of the Westvlees meatpacking plant in West Flanders tested positive for the new coronavirus.

All of the employees who tested positive worked in the cutting department, a Westvlees representative told Het Nieuwsblad.

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The company said an internal tracing system allowed them to establish the emergence of the cluster, and that the entire cutting department would be sent into quarantine for at least one week.

"It became clear through this system that several people who were sick at home were infected with Covid-19 and worked in the same department within Westvlees," product manager Manuel Goderis said.

The number of confirmed cases within the plant may still grow further, with some staff members still waiting on the results of their tests.

As countries across the globe sought to reactivate their economies by sending people back to work, meatpacking plants emerged as breeding grounds for coronavirus clusters.

Plants had to be shut down in cities in the US, Germany, the UK, France, Spain and the Netherlands after clusters of coronavirus emerged soon after staff returned to work.

Meatpacking plants and factories' noisy work environment, which forces workers to raise their voices or scream to communicate with each other, as well as the fact that staff work for hours in mainly indoor, damp and poorly ventilated areas have been identified as factors behind the surge of clusters in these working environments.

The set-up of factory lines and the overall organisation of labour in factories also mean that workers can not always respect social-distancing guidelines.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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