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HSE says just one meat plant where contact tracing is at '60-70%'

Minister Simon Harris said yesterday that there “are a number of cases in which there are contact and communications difficulties”.

HSE CEO Paul Reid at today's press conference.
HSE CEO Paul Reid at today's press conference.

THE HSE HAS said there is just one meat plant where contact tracing is only around 60-70% for those who’ve been diagnosed with Covid-19. 

At a press conference this morning with HSE representatives, director of public health at HSE mid-west Dr Mai Mannix said that workplace contact tracing is at 100% in affected meat plants and at about 90% in terms of community contact. 

“The information I have from speaking with my colleagues around the country is that this is about 90% complete in most instances – there was one facility where the estimate was 60-70%,” Mannix said.

Her comments come after Health Minister Simon Harris said that last night that contract tracing was proving difficult in around 30-40% of cases, although he didn’t specify if this was just in one plant. 

Dr Mannix said information is being provided to people in various languages, but there have been some issues in terms of phone numbers having an incorrect digit, for example, or people being reluctant to pick up the phone. In some cases, gardaí have helped to deliver information to people.

The majority of cases were male (77.6%) and aged 25-44 (58%), and most cases (88%) are out of the infectious period. 2.7% of people had to be admitted to hospital and seven patients were treated in ICU, but there were no deaths.

1,054 cases across 20 facilities have been confirmed to date – 15 facilities are still under active investigation, and in the other five it has been over 28 days since the last positive case.

Dáil

Speaking in the Dáil last night, Harris said that there were a number of cases where there are contact and communication difficulties.

In putting the question, independent TD Denis Naughten said that the lack of follow up with close contacts in an industry severely affected by Covid-19 is “creating a significant community risk”. 

In each of the last two weeks, the number of cases at meat plants has increased by over 100. In all, 27 of these workers have been hospitalised.

Union representatives and migrants rights organisation have said some workers in processing plants are not in a position to adhere to social distancing guidelines at home due to their living arrangements, with some sharing rooms with co-workers or even employees from other plants. 

Furthermore, unions have claimed that working conditions in meat plants have meant that social distancing is often difficult while at work. 

In the Dáil yesterday, Naughten told Harris: “With regard to the meat plants, I am informed that, in some instances, only about one third of the close contacts of those who have been identified as positive within the meat industry have been followed up.

“That is completely unacceptable. It is creating a significant community risk and it is, I believe, down to the failure to have an effective contact tracing system.”

Harris replied: “My information, for what it is worth, is that when it comes to contact tracing of meat plant staff, and I specifically asked this on foot of contact from the Deputy, the amount of contact tracing is much higher than one third and is between at least 60% and 70%, although there are a number of cases in which there are contact and communications difficulties.

We have a national outbreak team chaired by a very good doctor, Dr Mannix. I suggest that I put the Deputy directly in contact with her for a briefing on the work being done in regard to the meat plants, considering the Deputy has highlighted so many important issues.

With reporting from Órla Ryan

About the author:

Sean Murray

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