Following a COVID-19 outbreak at a meat processing plant in the town of Coesfeld, near the western German city of Münster, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has become the first to activate an “emergency mechanism” and delay the loosening of lockdown restrictions in the administrative district of Coesfeld until May 18.
As Germany draws down social distancing restrictions, and slowly reopens schools and businesses, the emergency mechanism is designed to stop a COVID-19 outbreak locally before it spreads further by reintroducing restrictions on public life. In most parts of the country, the restrictions are expected to be lifted on May 11.
Also referred to as an “emergency brake,” the mechanism is triggered if 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants are detected in a district or city. NRW Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann said that the number of new infections in Coesfeld is now at 61 per 100,000.
Laumann added that schools and day care facilities in the district would be allowed to open as planned on May 11.
The localized spike in cases comes after a test Thursday of 200 employees at the Westfleisch meat processing plant revealed 151 were positive for COVID-19. The company said 13 people have been hospitalized with moderate symptoms, and the rest are isolating with “mild” symptoms.
Laumann said the majority of workers were from Romania and Bulgaria, and their shared accommodation in tight quarters was a possible reason for the outbreak.
At the end of April, a similar outbreak at a meat processing plant in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg involved around 200 foreign workers who were infected.
All NRW slaughterhouse workers to be tested
All of the company’s 1,200 employees will now be tested and the plant will be closed until further notice, Laumann said on Friday, adding that an estimated 17,000-20,000 employees in all of the state’s 35 slaughterhouses will now be tested for COVID-19.
There have been several outbreaks of COVID-19 at a German meat processing plants recently.
This week, over 100 workers tested positive at a plant in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. The district of Segeberg, where the plant is located, will also delay the easing of lockdown measures, Germany’s DPA news agency reported, adding a district in the eastern state of Thuringia also initiated the emergency measurements due to an outbreak in an elderly care facility.
wmr/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)