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rising numbers Manufacturing and construction outbreaks fuelling workplace Covid surge

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Meat Industry Ireland said meat plants have the high testing levels across the sector. Stock image

Meat Industry Ireland said meat plants have the high testing levels across the sector. Stock image

Meat Industry Ireland said meat plants have the high testing levels across the sector. Stock image

The manufacturing and construction industries had the highest number of workplace outbreaks in the months leading up to the latest Covid surge.

New data also reveals that meat and poultry plants had the largest number of cases linked with workplace outbreaks.

Workplace outbreaks have played a major role in the spread of the virus that is putting the health system under severe strain.

The second-highest number of outbreaks across all settings since June has been in workplaces. Private homes were first.

There have been 3,136 outbreaks since the fourth wave of the virus hit. A quarter, or 793, were in private houses, followed by 419 in workplaces, or over 13pc of the total.

Ten per cent were in schools, 6pc in childcare facilities, 4pc in hospitals and less than 4pc in nursing homes.

Data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre’s (HPSC) infectious disease reporting system, compiled for the Irish Independent, show the highest number of workplace outbreaks since the end of August was in manufacturing, with 45 outbreaks, followed by construction, with 35.

Meat and poultry processing facilities had 14 outbreaks, or 6.7pc of the total.

However, 185 confirmed cases of the virus were linked with the meat plant outbreaks, the highest number in any workplace.

There were 184 cases linked with manufacturing outbreaks, 161 with food and drink production, 117 with construction, 57 with offices and 21 with defence, justice and emergency services.

The HPSC said the number of workplace outbreaks may be underestimated as reporting at hospitals has been prioritised in recent weeks.

Siptu divisional organiser Greg Ennis said case numbers linked to meat plants are not surprising as many workers share accommodation.

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He called for a return to daily testing and the roll-out of statutory occupational sick pay. He accused the Government of failing to act on most recommendations of an Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 last year.

“While these recommendations gather dust, workers in the low-pay food sector, including meat processing, continue to contract Covid-19,” he said.

Meat Industry Ireland said the data are “as we would have anticipated” given incidence levels in the community and “continued emphasis on Covid safety and mitigation measures in meat plants and the high testing levels”.

It said over 270,000 PCR tests have been conducted to date with an overall positivity rate of 0.7pc, while around 4,000 antigen tests are conducted each week.

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