In Australia and other parts of the world, COVID cases have soared, which was evident with Melbourne’s Cedar Meats plant at the beginning of this year. It was recorded that they had over 100 cases alongside Somerville Meats and JBS meats in Victoria.
Moreover, the cases have risen in the US too. At least 170,000 meat and poultry employees have been infected. Out of them, cased, 91 have died. Alongside this Britain, France, Germany and many other countries have reported cases in abattoirs and meat processors.
Even though abattoirs have cold temperatures, tight spaces, hard surfaces, and dry air, other variables can cause an increase.
How has meatworks become a considerable risk?
An epidemiologist Dr Fiona Stanway notes that it’s due to the cold temperatures and the dry air. In particular, a factory involves workers working nearby to one another, causing no social distancing. As a result, the rate of transmission increases.
Do hard surfaces impact the virus?
There have been studies shown that the virus can linger on hard surfaces three days after the initial transmission. This is especially the case with plastic and steel, used in abattoirs. Cardboard, however, only lasts a day.
Transmitting the virus into the community
If a worker picks up the virus at work, the community is at risk of contracting it as it spreads quickly in environments like meatworks and abattoirs. The majority of workers in this industry, are on some form of casual employment and therefore are more likely to work when they’re unwell.
Because of their urge to earn money, this can put more people at risk hence why pandemic leave is a good initiative.
Other preventative measures
Dr Stanway has indicated that increased testing and contact tracing is vital. Once these workers are tested, they have to stay away from their work, reducing the risk of community transmission.
A move was helped in May this year to reduce the risk of transmission by WorkSafe. Whom issued advice to Victorian meat and poultry processors according to guidelines from US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unfortunately, the measures could not be enforced; however, temperature checks and social distancing recommendations were made. However, no advice was made around shift hours reducing.