Update: New coronavirus outbreak at meat processing plant sparks concern across Germany

Update: New coronavirus outbreak at meat processing plant sparks concern across Germany
A meat processing plant in Bad Bramstedt, Schleswig-Holstein, which was hit by a coronavirus outbreak. Photo: DPA
Germany has uncovered another cluster of coronavirus infections at an abattoir fuelling alarm about working conditions in the country's meat packing plants.

A total of 92 employees at the Westfleisch slaughterhouse in Lower Saxony state have tested positive, local authorities in Osnabrûck district announced late Sunday.

The plant has been closed until further notice and staff have been placed in quarantine, joining a string of German slaughterhouses that have suffered similar outbreaks.

Many of the cases have been among abattoir workers from eastern Europe who live in shared accommodation.

Germany has grown increasingly concerned about the meat industry as a hotbed of new coronavirus infections, just as the nation emerges from lockdown and attempts to restart its battered economy.

READ ALSO: Rise in coronavirus infections spurs concern in Germany

Two similar outbreaks have occurred in France as well.

A large outbreak at a slaughterhouse in the district of Coesfeld in western Germany earlier this month prompted authorities to embark on mass testing at meat processing sites across the country.

More than 260 cases have now been confirmed at the Coesfeld plant.

(article continues below)

See also on The Local:

Another abattoir in the state of Schleswig-Holstein has reported over 100 cases, while one in Bavaria has had around 60.

'Shady'

German Labour Minister Hubertus Heil on Monday called for stricter oversight of the industry, long dogged by complaints over health and safety as well as cramped communal housing for foreign workers.

“These grievances are a problem even without a pandemic. But during the coronavirus crisis they have become a dangerous health risk for employees and the entire population,” Heil told reporters.

The minister is set to hold talks with his Romanian counterpart on Tuesday, before Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet is to decide on improved checks and regulations for the industry on Wednesday.

The meat sector's widespread use of subcontractors to supply labourers from abroad in particular is likely to come under intense scrutiny, with Heil describing the practice as “shady”.

READ ALSO: Two German states to test all meatpacking workers after coronavirus outbreaks

German food industry union NGG has urged “far-reaching reforms” to improve health and safety for employees.

It is particularly critical of the meat industry's widespread practice of subcontracting workers “from shady low-cost companies” which the union said allows German firms “to outsource responsibility” for the workers.

But slaughterhouses aren't the only cause for concern.

A refugee home in St. Augustin, near Bonn, has also been hit hard by Covid-19. More than 100 of its 500 residents have tested positive so far, local officials said Sunday.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's coronavirus pandemic law

Germany has recorded a total of 174,697 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, the Robert Koch Institute for disease control said Monday.  

Just over 7,900 people have died, a far lower fatality rate than in other European countries.


Member comments

  1. This is the “other” side of borderless Europe. The race to the bottom in wages and employee responsibility of big business.

  2. Responsible meat consumption = less problems in general, for everybody: environment, public health, etc.

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.