A food factory in Co Kildare has suspended all processing operations as a precautionary measure following the confirmation of 80 Covid-19 cases.
O’Brien Fine Foods has confirmed that the company suspended all processing operations at its Timahoe facility as of 9pm last night.
A statement said:
"In recent days, an employee presented with Covid-19 symptoms. In line with our procedures, we immediately isolated the individual and initiated a test.
"Results received on 30 July confirmed that the person had tested positive for Covid-19 which, at that juncture, was our third confirmed case.
"We initiated engagement with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and took what we believe was the most responsible decision to test all employees which was coordinated by the HSE and a private provider to expediate testing.
"Of 243 tests completed, 80 have been confirmed as positive for Covid-19. Of the 80 confirmed, the level of asymptomatic infectivity appears to be very high. We are completing testing of a further 42 employees today.
"Those who have tested positive have been advised to isolate as per the official guidance and full risk assessment and contract tracing procedures are underway. All close contacts of those affected are being notified, advised to self-isolate and to contact their GP.
"We continue to assist, protect and support our team whom we engage with on a daily and regular basis and we maintain active engagement with customers and suppliers. We thank them for their understanding and support.
"The decision to suspend all processing operations is a precautionary measure. Following consultation with the HSE, our warehousing facility will operate at minimum staffing and capacity levels. A further comprehensive deep clean of the facility is underway and a full risk assessment process has commenced in the interest of employee and public health. We will continue to follow public health advice and take every necessary action to comprehensively address the risk, in cooperation with the HSE and Department of Health.
"Since the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in Ireland last February, we have operated with an abundance of caution and safety. A rigorous health and safety policy was implemented. This includes working from home for all non-operations staff, mandatory PPE, Perspex screens, staggered shift and break times, restricted visitor to site policy, daily temperature checking, changing work practices, communications in five languages, and intensive cleaning and sanitisation procedures - additional cleaning personnel were contracted on site. We were also fully audited by the relevant inspectors during this time with no issues identified.
"Given this level of rigour and our comparatively low level of confirmed cases up to this point, this sudden spike is difficult to comprehend."
15 May: one isolated case confirmed (employee believed to have been in close contact with a confirmed case outside of work)
22 May: one isolated case confirmed (remote employee believed to have been in close contact with a healthcare worker)
30 July: one case confirmed
1 August: company seeks specific public health advice from the HSE and decision taken to test all staff
5 August: 80 confirmed cases
County Kildare Chamber CEO Allan Shine said this evening: “There have been a number of outbreaks in meat factories over the past weeks, they are some of the hardest businesses to control mainly due to their nature of business and the number of people employed.
"O’Brien Fine Foods are a very respected company in Kildare and are extremely vigilant with their protective measures for infection control, including supervised distancing, mandatory face coverings and their staggered approach to breaks and start times.
"Our hope is the company can reopen as soon as the authorities allow as the O’Brien family are a huge employer in Kildare.
"Covid-19 is a pandemic we are all in the midst of and businesses in Kildare adhere to all protocols issued by the authorities.
"This is an unfortunate outbreak and we look forward to O’Brien Fine Foods opening their doors and resuming business in the coming weeks."