Three Kildare plants where there have been Covid clusters have suspended operations

Three Kildare plants where there have been Covid clusters have suspended operations
O’Brien Fine Foods plant which produces the well known Brady Family Ham brand in the village of Timahoe, Kildare is suspending all operations at the facility until August 18. Picture: Eamonn Farrell/

It has been confirmed that three plants in Co Kildare will not be opening tomorrow.

Kildare Chilling plant in Kildare town has suspended operations and the Irish Dog Foods factory in Naas will not be resuming operations as planned tomorrow.

O'Brien Fine Foods in Timahoe, which has so far confirmed 86 cases of Covid-19, released a statement this morning reaffirming its position in relation to future work being carried out on their premises.

The plant suspended all processing operations last Wednesday at 9pm and the following day the decision was taken to cease normal operations for the 14-day incubation period beginning on August 4.

In order to manage perishable goods the company has said the warehousing facility and minimal related operation will continue at significantly reduced capacity levels.

According to the statement, all staff will continue to be paid in full.

In addition to the testing that has already taken place, employee testing will take place on days seven and 14 and only employees who test negative and meet public health guidelines in full will be returning to work when the plant reopens.

After full processing operations have recommenced, employees will be tested at 14-day intervals.

Another measure to be taken in an effort to minimise the risk of transmission is the provision of safe transportation of all employees to and from work.

O'Brien Fine Foods said the level of asymptomatic infectivity appears to be very high among staff.

Those who have tested positive have been asked to isolate per official guidance and contact tracing is continuing. Close contacts are being notified and advised to self-isolate and contact their GP.

The first case reported to O'Brien Fine Foods occurred on May 15 when one isolated case was confirmed, believed to have been a close contact of a confirmed case outside the workplace.

Another case regarding a remote employee was confirmed on May 22 and then one case was confirmed on July 30.

On August 1, the company sought advice from the HSE and the decision was taken to test all staff.

Four days later, O'Brien Fine Foods had 80 confirmed cases followed by another six cases two days later.

The company said it has operated with "an abundance of caution and safety" since the pandemic began in February.

"In consultation with the Health Service Executive (HSE), we have taken what we believe was the most responsible actions at all times, putting a rigorous health and safety policy in place, testing all employees, undertaking a further deep clean of the facility, and ultimately suspending processing operations.

We wish to thank our team, the community of Timahoe, our customers and suppliers for their support and understanding. This sudden spike is difficult to comprehend for all of us.

"In cooperation with the HSE and Department of Health, we will continue to follow public health advice and take every necessary action to address it." 

Meanwhile, the head of the HSE says meat processing plants where there are significant Covid-19 outbreaks could be closed down.

Health officials are expecting significant numbers of new cases in the coming days, as more workers in meat factories are tested.

CEO of the HSE, Paul Reid, says efforts need to be made to control outbreaks in meat plants.

"We do want to recognise they have put in place a lot of measures in a lot of the plants," said Mr Reid.

"But in some cases, we have had to close down plants and will do so on public health grounds in the future.

"There needs to be some consideration about transportation of the workforce, there needs to be some consideration about strong infection prevention controls, understanding them and communicating them."

SIPTU's Greg Ennis explains said there needs to be repeated blanket testing of all meat and food processing workers in all plants on a recurring 14 to 21-day basis.

"Where there are cases or suspected cases, those plants much immediately shut down without loss of earnings for the workers.

"They must be deep cleaned and sanitised and workers only return to work following inspection.

"We need unannounced health and safety inspections."

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