Coronavirus outbreak closes German meat-packing plant | News | DW | 08.05.2020
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Coronavirus outbreak closes German meat-packing plant

Days after Germany readied to ease coronavirus restrictions, three districts saw outbreaks that will delay reopening. After COVID-19 infections at slaughterhouses, two states will test all meat-processing workers.

Following a COVID-19 outbreak at a meat processing plant in the town of Coesfeld, near the western German city of Münster, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has become the first to activate an "emergency mechanism" and delay the loosening of lockdown restrictions in the administrative district of Coesfeld until May 18.

As Germany draws down social distancing restrictions, and slowly reopens schools and businesses, the emergency mechanism is designed to stop a COVID-19 outbreak locally before it spreads further by reintroducing restrictions on public life. In most parts of the country, the restrictions are expected to be lifted on May 11.

Read more: Germans rally behind Merkel government's coronavirus response

Also referred to as an "emergency brake," the mechanism is triggered if 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants are detected in a district or city. NRW Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann said that the number of new infections in Coesfeld is now at 61 per 100,000.

Laumann added that schools and day care facilities in the district would be allowed to open as planned on May 11.

The localized spike in cases comes after a test Thursday of 200 employees at the Westfleisch meat processing plant revealed 151 were positive for COVID-19. The company said 13 people have been hospitalized with moderate symptoms, and the rest are isolating with "mild" symptoms.The plant will be closed until further notice.

A Westfleisch trailer truck (picture-alliance/dpa/G. Kirchner)

State authorities orderd Westfleisch to close for the time being

Laumann said the majority of workers were from Romania and Bulgaria, and their shared accommodation in tight quarters was a possible reason for the outbreak.

At the end of April, a similar outbreak at a meat processing plant in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg involved around 200 foreign workers who were infected.

Read more: Cheap meat hard for German farmers to swallow

All NRW slaughterhouse workers to be tested

Laumann said on Friday that an estimated 17,000-20,000 employees in all of the NRW's 35 slaughterhouses will be tested for COVID-19, included all 1,200 workers at the Westfleisch plant.

The health minister added that a smaller outbreak has been found at another NRW meat-packing plant in the town of Oer-Erkenschwick in the Ruhr region, with 33 workers out of 1,250 testing positive.

In the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, health officials on Friday also called for state-wide testing of all slaughterhouse workers.

Earlier this week, 109 workers tested positive at a plant in Bad Bramstedt in the district of Segeberg. As with the other cases, most of the workers come from abroad and live in shared housing near the plant.

The district of Segeberg will also delay the easing of lockdown measures, Germany's DPA news agency reported.

A district in the eastern state of Thuringia also initiated the emergency measurements due to a coronavirus outbreak in an elderly care facility.

wmr/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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