Cranswick has suspended production at its Ballymena plant after a cluster of COVID-19 cases was discovered among staff.
The BBC reports that Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann said 35 cases had been identified among the plant’s 500 workers. The company briefed its workers on Thursday, with the closure reportedly taking effect from 6pm on Saturday.
A Cranswick spokesperson all staff would now be sent for testing and any that tested positive would need to isolate for 14 days, which is why production was suspended. It said health and safety remained its number one priority.
“There has been a recent increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ballymena and the wider region and this has been acknowledged as a community issue. As a result of this, we can confirm that a number of colleagues at our Ballymena site have tested positive for COVID-19,” she said.
“Working with the Public Health Authority (PHA), we have taken the decision to send all of our colleagues for testing. If the test results are positive, the individual will be required to self-isolate for 10 days; if the test results are negative, the individual will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Therefore, the site will need to temporarily suspend production.
“The health and safety of all of our colleagues has always been our number one priority and we have done everything we can to protect our Ballymena team.
“From the outset of the pandemic, we have implemented additional measures to protect our team, including social distancing measures, recommended PPE for all employees in line with the official guidelines and we have introduced additional cleaning and hygiene measures across the site.
“Throughout this period, we have worked closely with the regulatory agencies, including the PHA, DEARA and the HSENI who have approved the action plan in place at the site.”
The BBC said it was understood discussions are under way with other firms to take pigs, which cannot be slaughtered at Ballymena.
There has been a recent spike in community cases in the Mid and East Antrim Council area with 80 new positive cases in the past seven days.
Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency said it had made a ‘number of significant recommendations’ to a business in the Mid and East Antrim Council area. “These include the testing of all staff this week and self-isolation of staff identified as close contacts of cases,” it said.
It said testing and tracing was being carried out to identify staff who might potentially be affected to help prevent further community transmission.
The Health and Safety Executive said it had carried out 41 inspections of meat plants in Northern Ireland between 28 April and 17 August.
- Main image source: BBC