Denis Naughten TD has secured a Dáil debate next Thursday with the Minister for Agriculture on the scale of Covid-19 infection within the meat processing industry.
Denis Naughten secured the support of the members of the Dáil Business Committee to bring in the Minister for Agriculture to explain how several meat processors across the country have seen a large proportion of their employees contract Covid-19.
In the Dáil yesterday afternoon (Thursday) Denis Naughten pointed out to the Minister for Health that “we are now looking at clusters of infection surrounding meat plants where the levels of infection within the plants themselves is up on one third or, in some instances, half of the workforce”.
He went on to say that these figures “seriously bring into question the Covid protection measures implemented in the plants”.
He added: “And yet despite this, the Minister for Agriculture assured me in the Dáil just two weeks ago that he was satisfied from the feedback from his officials in meat plants that everything was being done to minimise the spread on this infection.”
Deputy Naughten pointed out that staff did not self-isolate in the period between being tested and the results being returned which seriously undermines the validity of the negative results.
He went on to call on the Minister for Health to ensure that all such employees are now retested and given results in a timely manner to protect the processing capacity of the sector, the staff & their families and the communities in which employees live.
“Ahead of the start of re-opening the economy next week we must address the fundamental problems within the meat processing sector which could be replicated in other parts of industry and which could be catastrophic,” stated Denis Naughten.
“These failures in the system have resulted in new infection clusters in communities across the country which up to now had low levels of Covid-19 infection. If these fundamental issues are not addressed immediately, in advance of the easing of the lockdown next Monday, then we could very quickly be looking at a second spike in Covid-19 infections.
“After such heroic efforts by every citizen in the State to stop the spread of this virus we cannot allow a second wave of infection under any circumstances. So, while we must remain cautious in how we relax restrictions, we must also learn to live with Covid-19 which will be with us for a considerable time to come,” concluded Denis Naughten.