More virus cases at German slaughterhouse, but no lockdown for now
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases at a slaughterhouse in Germany rose by 300 on Sunday, to 1,331, as officials from the state of North Rhine Westphalia visited the site of the outbreak that has stirred fears of a second wave of infection.
Officials were waiting for the results of about 250 tests out of 6,139 that had been conducted on the slaughterhouse firm’s premises.
State Prime Minister Armin Laschet, who was visiting the site in Guetersloh to get a sense of the situation on the ground, said that there was no reason to shut down the district for the time being.
While there is “an enormous pandemic risk,” the infection was clearly localized at the Toennies slaughterhouse, and there was no “significant leap” into the rest of the population, said Laschet.
However, he said a comprehensive regional lockdown is a possibility if efforts to stop the spread of the virus do not work as planned.
Following the visit, Laschet told broadcaster ZDF his government had closed schools and day-care centres.
“This is the first part of a lockdown. And we will consider further steps in the next few days,” he said.
“I can imagine that we would also reinstate contact restrictions like we had during the lockdown.”
All of the slaughterhouse workers are now in some form of quarantine, but the measure may not be enough, as workers could have infected friends and family, who might have in turn spread the virus even further.
Laschet told ZDF 7,000 people have been told to quarantine and there have been challenges communicating with workers who come from a non-German speaking background.
Laschet has offered additional help to the community, where German army soldiers, health workers and police have been sent in recent days to help ensure quarantine measures and trace the outbreak.
The slaughterhouse outbreak has led to calls for the owner, Clemens Toennies, to step down, with protests at the factory on Saturday.
Toennies has insisted he will lead the company out of the crisis.
Laschet said on Sunday that he expects the slaughterhouse owner to stick to his word that things have to change and that he would implement new rules and conditions for a safer work environment.
North Rhine Westphalia was one of the first states to be severely hit by the virus. Laschet has also been one of the German leaders pushing most vigorously for a relaxation of the coronavirus guidelines.
Germany-wide, the Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease and control centre, recorded 687 new infections in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of positive coronavirus cases to 189,822.
More than 8,880 infected people have died, the centre added.