With the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus, several industries have been impacted. The risk of contamination is more in the industries providing essential commodities. This has resulted in an increase in coronavirus cases in meat plants. According to reports, a high number of workers in the meat processing plants have been infected with the coronavirus. There have been outbreaks in meat plants in the UK, the US, Germany, France, and Spain. In the UK alone, around 150 meat factory workers have been infected with the coronavirus.
Why has there been an increase in coronavirus cases in meat plants?
A lot of factors are responsible for outbreaks in meat plants over the world. A major factor is the physical environment of the workplace. The meat factories or processing units have a cold, damp atmosphere. The virus stays longer in this kind of environment. Therefore, if one person tests positive for coronavirus, the virus will spread in such contained areas rapidly.
The coronavirus spreads by droplets, either by the sneeze or cough of an infected person. This means that people who are nearby the infected person are at risk of getting contaminated. In the meat processing plants, workers have to remain in close quarters with each other to handle the products and machinery. Moreover, they have to shout or talk loudly to be heard over the loud machinery. This increases the probability of the transmission of droplets.
Another factor to consider is workers’ exposure to the external environment. The workers in the meat plants get provisions for on-site accommodations as well as commute services. Thus, staying together in the industry provided dormitories, and traveling to the worksite by buses increases the risk of infection.
Can meat or other food products spread coronavirus?
Scientists and researchers have maintained that the virus cannot be spread by food. There is zero evidence of coronavirus spreading by the meat inside the meat factories. The Food Standards Agency supports this notion as the virus does not spread in this manner. Thus, there is no risk of the virus spreading through meat products.
What are the steps taken to protect the workers?
The government has set certain guidelines in place to ensure proper measures for protecting the workers. According to the guidelines, workers should maintain a distance of a minimum of two meters whenever possible. The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has also taken certain steps to avoid infection. There have been suggestions to clean the factories frequently. The workers who are sick or showing symptoms should be isolated. Additionally, the factories should reschedule the shift timings.
If possible, additional protective equipment such as goggles or masks should be made available for the staff. Further, Public Health England has been working to provide adequate testing equipment and other resources whenever an outbreak occurs. The organization ensures that proper testing and tracing of infected people occurs. It is also sending in mobile units to the factories so that testing can be done on a large scale.