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Offaly meat factory to reopen in the coming days after halting operations due to Covid-19 outbreak

Carroll Cuisine said all of its factory based employees were tested and received a negative result for Covid-19.

Image: Niall Carson

A MEAT FACTORY in Tullamore, Co Offaly has today announced it is reopening over the coming week after it was forced to suspend operations following a wave of public criticism earlier this week.

The Carroll Cuisine factory was the only one of four meat factories in Kildare, Laois and Offaly – which is currently under regional Covid-19 restrictions – not to have closed on Monday despite clusters of the virus among its staff in recent weeks. 

Late on Monday it announced it would close its doors and said it believed “temporary suspension of operations is the best course of action” after politicians including a junior minister raised concern.

Today, however, it said it is reopening the factory now that all of the Covid-19 tests carried out on employees at its factory came back negative. 

In a statement, it said it has received approval from the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to resume its operation and that “rigorous prevention measures” are in place to prevent the virus reemerging and spreading among its staff. 

“The HSE and the HSA have reviewed and approved the extensive measures we have in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus,” it said. 

“They have confirmed to us that we have all necessary processes in place to allow for a reopening of our facility. This comes after we temporarily suspended our operations last Monday while we waited for the results of Coronavirus tests by the HSE. All of these tests came back negative.

“The tests provide confidence that the actions we’re taking are effective. Taking into account the approval we have received, and the rigorous prevention measures we have in place, we will begin carefully and gradually resuming operations on a phased basis over the coming week.”

The company said 210 of its employees were tested and that those “tests proved 100% negative for Coronavirus”. It added that the remaining 120 members of its staff are not based at the factory and did not require testing. 

“When the three midland counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly recently went into regional lockdown, over 500 individuals in Offaly had tested positive for the virus. Only nine of those 500+ people are employees of Carroll’s.

“Throughout the recent national lockdown, we stayed open as an essential food industry supply operation, throughout that time, ensuring the availability of our foods for retailers and consumers nationwide. We successfully kept Covid out of our business for several months,” it said. 

The first confirmed case at the factory emerged on 31 July, according to the company. 

On Monday, Junior Minister Sean Fleming criticised the factory for opening after Government introduced regional restrictions on Kildare, Laois and Offaly last Friday, forcing local businesses in a number of sectors to close. 

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“I accept the numbers vary from factory to factory but they could increase, we’re in the middle of a spike, the spike in Ireland is getting worse than England at the moment. It’s not about the historic figures, we have to contain it. I think it’s in everybody’s interest that every meat factory with a case should close down,” Fleming said at the time. 

O’Brien’s Fine Foods in Timahoe, Co Kildare initially suspended its processing operation after more than 80 people tested positive for the virus and said it would resume on 18 August. 

Irish Dog Foods in Naas, Co Kildare and Kildare Chilling in Kildare Town also suspended their operations.

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