MANAGEMENT at the ABP meat factory in Bandon have said that they are continuing to work with the HSE following the confirmation that 66 staff members have tested positive for Covid-19.
These confirmed cases reflect the fact that the Bandon/Kinsale electoral area (LEA) now has the highest Covid rates in West Cork, with the 14-day incidence rate at 1,701 per 100,000, significantly above the national average of 1,334.
A spokesperson for ABP told The Southern Star that the positive cases arose following the screening of staff at the plant, which employs 300 people.
‘In line with Covid-19 protocols, all close contacts of those impacted are currently self-isolating and the site is also operating at a significantly reduced capacity. Staff safety and public health is our priority and ABP will continue to work with the HSE in relation to the matter.’
The company said that since the start of the pandemic last year, it has introduced a range of protection measures as part of a company-wide initiative.
However, concerns have been expressed that some of the workers in the meat processing plant at Kilbrogan may be living in cramped shared accommodation in flats and houses around the town. It is understood that some workers could be sharing rooms with three or four other co-workers, making it impossible for those wishing to self-isolate.
SIPTU division organiser Greg Ennis said it is ‘absolutely insane’ that meat processing plants remain open when workers have tested positive for Covid-19.
‘In circumstances where there are significant clusters of Covid, such as Bandon, those employments should be shut down without loss of earnings to the workers, deep cleaned and sanitised, everyone should be PCR tested before returning to work.’
A spokesperson for ABP said the company provides guidance and takes every measure possible to ensure that all protocols are adhered to with regards to contact tracing, isolation, quarantine and close contacts, combined with a set of rigid measure that have been introduced in the workplace
Concerns were expressed last year that meat factories in particular were prone to Covid clusters. One factory in North Cork reported over 226 cases last summer but failed to close down following the detections.
A HSE spokesperson said they cannot comment on individual cases or outbreaks.
Meanwhile, latest HSE figures show that the Bantry LEA has shown an improved rate, with its 14-day incidence rate just above the national average, at 1,34.6, while Skibbereen is also above the average, at 1,463. Macroom maintains its relatively low rates of Covid, at 1,053.1 per 100,00. Carrigaline’s 14-day incidence rate is 1,337.5.