Some 120 workers at a meat processing plant which employs staff living in Laois, Offaly and Tipperary have tested positive for Covid-19, a Laois Offaly TD has claimed.
Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley also labelled the situation at the Roscrea meat plant a 'fiasco' that underlines case for greater oversight and quick action.
The Sinn Féin pokesperson on Agriculture and Food Brian Stanley TD outlined the need for more effective oversight and quicker responses to any outbreak of Covid 19 in meat processing plants.
"It’s essential this is done to protect the health of workers, jobs and the food supply chain.
“I raised concerns with Minister Creed weeks ago about the overall need to protect the sector at this critical time. On Thursday in the Dáil I specifically highlighted the Roscrea fiasco with the Minister.
"Workers in Roscrea and other plants have complained to me over the past month about the lack of proper protections been put in place to lessen the risk of Covid clusters developing in their workplaces.
"The first case of a worker becoming ill in Roscrea was approximately a month ago. Given the highly contagious nature of the virus, comprehensive and immediate action should have been taken.
"Production workers have told me that physical distancing was not implemented and personal protection equipment (PPEs) were not available across the workforce until very recently. They also complained that information was not been communicated properly to non-English speaking workers.
"The figures for the rate of infection of staff are staggering, with over 120 testing positive and in the region of 140 out sick last week. This is out of a total production staff of just 350.
"When all workers were eventually tested on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th of April, approximately 120 proved positive. However, most returned to work the following Monday and Tuesday before they got the all clear. Those who tested positive were then sent home but they had been working directly alongside colleagues for 2 days, putting them at risk of infection.
"The whole fiasco underlines the need for strict enforcement of health and safety measures in meat processing plants. These must include mandatory temperature checks, physical distancing, PPEs and quicker action when a worker becomes infected. The health and safety of workers and their families has to be paramount if we want to protect jobs in this important food industry," said the TD.