Naughten: ‘We must address flaws in Covid protections in meat industry’

Deputy Denis Naughten has claimed that some staff in meat plants who were tested for Covid-19 returned to work before receiving the results of their tests.

The Roscommon/Galway TD said that when it comes to the meat industry, it is clear there have been flaws in terms of social distancing and a lack of clear information on Covid-19 and particularly on self-isolation.

“There have been numerous reports of staff who were tested for Covid-19 going back to work before they received their results – due to delays in lab results – when clearly there was a problem with infection in the meat plants concerned. In such instances, negative results are worthless, as due to the delays in receiving results the staff could have been infected by other staff who were positive but showing no signs of infection (asymptomatic) in the intervening period.

“Part of the system failure has been the ongoing delays is issuing test results and fundamental problems with contact tracing. These failures in the system have resulted in new infection clusters in communities across the country which up to now had low levels of Covid-19 infection”.

Deputy Naughten said that if these issues are not addressed immediately, the risk of a second spike in Covid-19 infections becomes greater.

“After such heroic efforts by every citizen in the State to stop the spread of this virus we cannot allow a second wave of infection under any circumstances. So while we must remain cautious in how we relax restrictions, we must also learn to live with Covid-19 which will be with us for a considerable time to come,” he said.

Deputy Naughten expressed deep concern about the contact tracing system and also said there are long delays in informing people of their results.

“For example, I could not understand that if there was such a swift turnaround in testing, as outlined to TDs by the HSE, why meat plants were not closed by public health officials until the Covid screening results came back.

“But clearly the reason for the current management of clusters is because of the inordinate delays in providing results through the contact tracing system”.