The mayors of towns in West Flanders will meet today to consider what action to take in response to the mass infection of workers at the Westvlees meat production plant in Westrozebeke by Roeselare.
Earlier this week, 225 workers at the plant were placed in quarantine after an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus among employees.
According to a statement from the company, the outbreak affected “ten or so” employees in the cutting plant. In fact, the total later rose above 60.
The exact cause of the outbreak is not clear. Westvlees CEO Jos Claeys said the company was careful to ensure all health regulations were closely followed.
“But we can’t carry out checks outside the slaughterhouse,” he said.
The coronavirus has previously hit slaughter facilities and meat-packing plants in the UK, the UK and Germany before this. Conditions in those plants seem to favour the virus and its spread. A low temperature appears to allow it to hang in the air, while ventilation allows it to spread. Noisy conditions mean any conversations have to be shouted, which helps propagate the droplets that carry the virus. And workers typically operate in close proximity to one another.
Now it has been reported that workers have tested positive in nine municipalities around Staden, the parent municipality of Westrozebeke. The mayors of those towns, and possibly others where the effects might still show, will meet today to consider their response.
The plant employs 850, of whom 650 work in the cutting plant. To date 250 have been tested, and testing will continue especially among those who work with the infected workers.
Project manager Manuel Goderis said there was no reason to assume the outbreak might have affected other parts of the premises. “The cutting plant has its own separate entrance,” he told De Tijd.