The News Letter broke the news of the outbreak at Moy Park in Ballymena yesterday, and Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed this morning that the Public Health Agency is now in contact with the meat company.
Mr Swann appealed for the agency to be “given the space to get on with their vital work” in a BBC radio interview.
Meanwhile, the trade union Unite has called for a testing programme to be rolled out for workers at the Ballymena facility.
Those calls have been echoed by the Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw.
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Sean McKeever of Unite told the News Letter: “I’m asking for a test site to be set up in the car park at Moy Park so that, as people come on and off their shifts, they can be tested.
“There’s about 1,200 workers there and they do two shifts of 12 hours so you’re going to have around 600 people coming on and off – if you’ve got 600 workers under one roof they need to be regularly tested to find out who has got it.”
He added: “They need to test every worker over a 14-day period, because as we all know people can have it and not show any symptoms so the temperature checks won’t pick that up if someone is asymptomatic and doesn’t have a temperature.”
Ms Bradshaw said she raised concerns about a potential meat plant outbreak in Northern Ireland a month ago.
“I raised publicly, including in an Assembly Question exactly a month ago, the obvious and serious risk to staff in meat factories and those who come into contact with them from the virus,” she said.
“We have seen instances elsewhere in the UK and Ireland of tens of cases being linked to individual meat factories, and literally thousands of confirmed cases were linked to a single plant in Gütersloh in Germany.”
Ms Bradshaw added: “It is clear from this cluster that Moy Park needs to take extra measures to protect its staff, and that surely includes arranging for regular testing of workers.
“The safety and well-being of the workers and of the local community in which they work and live must be the number one priority.”
A spokesperson for Moy Park said a “very small number” of workers in the Ballymena site had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The company spokesperson added: “As coronavirus has spread across the communities in which we live, we are doing all that we can to help keep the virus out of our facilities and help prevent its spread.”
Moy Park said the safety of its workers is the “number one priority” and highlighted measures such as perspex screens, social distancing and temperature monitoring that it has put in place.