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Gardai give final warning to staff at factory where half are infected

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50pc of workers have tested positive at the Kepak plant

50pc of workers have tested positive at the Kepak plant

50pc of workers have tested positive at the Kepak plant

Gardai visited a meat factory where a massive cluster of coronavirus has broken out to warn workers that any more breaches of social- distancing regulations will not be tolerated.

The warning came during a multi-agency meeting at the Kepak meat-processing plant in Ballymahon, Co Longford, where 50pc of employees have tested positive for Covid-19.

Gardai have moved to the "enforcement" stage of policing the situation in the district, which means that those now found breaching the restrictions will be arrested.

Senior sources said there had been "huge concern" that a large number of the employees, particularly Brazilian nationals, had been in breach of the strict health regula- tions and travel restrictions in the weeks before the special meeting was organised last Friday.

"There was a grave concern within the community about these young men being in breach of the regulations and it had been going on for weeks, despite more and more people contracting the virus," a source told the Herald.

"You had large groups of young men going to the shops together and congregating outside shops and hanging around the streets.

"Then there was a situation where they continued to car-pool to travel to and from work at the factory, which meant that sometimes up to four to five people from different households were travelling in the same vehicle.

"Considering there was a virus cluster at the factory, all this made for a very grave and dangerous situation.

"The majority of those involved in these breaches were Brazilian nationals, but it wasn't only them."

Last Friday, community policing gardai and senior officers from Longford, senior HSE officials and the chief executive of Longford County Council met with representatives of workers at the Ballymahon factory and the operations manager at Kepak.

"This is a factory where around 150 people have tested positive, so it was very important to have the meeting," the source told the Herald.

"It went very well and there was great co-operation from the company, who have put in place many measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Message

"There was a Brazilian-born garda who was able to speak to the workers in their native Portuguese and a Polish-born garda who spoke Polish to the Polish workers, as well as a garda born in Slovenia who explained things in Serbian and Italian.

"They were also given key health advice by the specialist registrar in public health with the HSE in the Midlands, and the message really seemed to get through to the workers."

Since the meeting was held, gardai have observed no instances of the Brazilian factory workers breaching Covid-19 laws, and sources said officers were "very happy" with the level of compliance in the past week.

It is understood that a similar meeting was held this week at a meat factory in Athleague, Co Roscommon.