BRAZIL, Brasília. Many employees in the meat industry are infected. New government hygiene rules do not go far enough for the workers' representatives.
Slaughterhouses are also hotspots for Covid-19 outbreaks in Brazil. Therefore, the state government has now taken special precautionary measures. In order to ensure occupational safety and thus also guarantee the meat supply of the population, slaughterhouses must now ensure that employees keep a minimum distance of one meter between each other, according to a state decree that came into force on June 19. For example, crowds must be prevented when entering and leaving the companies. Where the minimum distance cannot be maintained, masks must be worn and partition walls set up.
In addition, it must be ensured that employees wash their hands regularly and that the workplaces are cleaned more frequently, the decree states. Workplaces must be ventilated regularly, and there must be no air circulation when using air conditioning systems. Employees must also be medically examined at the first sign of infection. Infected persons must be quarantined for 14 days. The same applies to those who have had contact with those who are ill. However, you can bypass the quarantine with a negative corona test.
According to domestic media reports, employee representatives considered the measures to be "inadequate". A minimum distance of 1.5 m between employees as well as mass tests were necessary. In fact, the measures prescribed by the state fall short of the self-imposed requirements of meat companies. Marfrig, for example, has already carried out mass tests for the coronavirus among its employees. In addition, according to the company, one of the measures taken is to ensure that employees keep a minimum distance of 1.5 metres.
As has been observed in recent months, slaughterhouses in Brazil contribute massively to the spread of coronavirus. Some of them were temporarily closed due to high infection rates. In the federal state of Rio Grande do Sul, one of the main production centres for meat in Brazil, corona infections were detected in a total of 4,957 slaughterhouse employees by Tuesday last week, according to the regional government. This means that every fourth infection detected in the region was accounted for by one slaughterhouse employee. 65,000 people are employed in Rio Grande do Sul.
Brazilian experts attribute the incidence of disease in the facilities to the confinement and low temperature in the plants. In some cases, there are also company accommodation facilities in which workers who have travelled from more distant areas live during the week. Meanwhile, the Brazilian meat companies JBS, Marfrig and Minerva Foods signed the declarations required by the important customer China that their goods are free of the coronavirus.
Brazil is currently one of the countries most affected by the pandemic worldwide. According to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), there are around 1.1 million confirmed cases of infection and just over 51,000 deaths in Brazil to date.