Cowen says restrictions necessary to protect lives
Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen has said that 309 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in four meat processing facilities in the region.
In a lengthy post on his Facebook page last evening, Cowen said there had been 160 cases confirmed relating to Kildare Chilling, based in Kildare town; 85 at O’Brien’s Fine Foods in Timahoe, Kildare; 53 at Irish Dog Food in Naas and 11 at Carroll Cuisine in Tullamore.
Cowen said the overriding factor in the Government’s decision to impose the new restrictions in Laois, Offaly and Kildare was “public health and protecting lives, especially the elderly and vulnerable.”
Whilst acknowledging that there had been mixed reactions to the decision, which he described as “a severe blow to us all but particularly to many businesses who’ve worked tirelessly and at great expense to restart, revive or regain a living.”
However, he said: “It is essential that we be vigilant to prevent Covid getting back into our communities, if it did we’d be trying to limit the number of lives lost rather than trying to prevent lives being lost.
Cowen said that the number of cases over the past 14 days per 100,000 population across Ireland is 16, for Ireland without the three counties it is approximately 6 and for each of the counties it is Kildare 130, Laois 70 and Offaly 90
“Many who have tested positive were asymptomatic and living widely across the counties. All workers and their close contacts have been tested and helped isolate as required.
“Due to the size of the outbreaks, public health officials are concerned that in spite of these measures the virus may well spread quickly into communities in Kildare, Laois and Offaly.
“The measures are designed to suppress community transmission by reducing social interactions.
“The measures are being enacted before a lot of community transmission has been identified. This is understandably causing frustration in affected communities as people ask why it isn’t sufficient to isolate those testing positive and close contacts.
“Given that the objective is to suppress community transmission it is necessary to act before community transmission is widely reported.”
He said the issue with meat processing factories was common across many countries.
“Ireland from March to June there were approximately 1,100 cases recorded in meat factories. In response, Ireland was the first country in Europe to introduce Covid protocols for meat factories. This includes temperature testing, masks and Perspex screens. Very few cases were reported in July.
He said that when an outbreak occurs, a Local Outbreak Team is deployed, mass testing and tracing is carried out where necessary and the plants are shut down for deep cleaning.
“Government is considering what additional measures can be used to further reduce the risks in meat processing operations. This includes supports for staff, transport to and from work and further infection control and prevention measures in the facilities. Officials from multiple state agencies and departments are engaging with the meat industry to this end.”