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Coronavirus news: Germany quarantines 7,000 people after local outbreak

  • Coronavirus news: Germany quarantines 7,000 people after local outbreak
    The spread is believed to have come from Tönnies Coronavirus news: Germany quarantines 7,000 people after local outbreak
Region:
Europe
Category:
Society
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By Reuters, BBC, AFP
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The spread is believed to have come from Tönnies, a meat processing plant in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, where there have been 657 confirmed cases of the virus.

In Germany’s western state of North Rhein Westphalia, around 7,000 people have been placed in quarantine and schools and kindergartens have been closes after an outbreak of coronavirus.

The spread is believed to have come from Tönnies, a meat processing plant in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, where there have been 657 confirmed cases of the virus.

Elsewhere, Martin Hikel, mayor in the southern Berlin district of Neukölln, has said authorities are trying to trace the origins of a worrying new spread of the virus there, which has so far infected around 70 local residents.

Police are reportedly guarding seven neighbouring residential blocks , in which over 370 separate households, many of them living in very cramped conditions, are currently under quarantine.

Hikel said the incidences were extremely concerning, not least because “we still don’t know the full extent of it,” he told Der Spiegel in an interview.

Hikel said social workers were helping out the families, informing them of the importance of the quarantine and assisting them where possible. A group of locals has formed a network of volunteers, providing the affected residents with packages of food and toys, and going shopping for them.

Hikel said many of those in quarantine are Roma families “who already struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet” and for whom the current situation is a “catastrophe”.

It is believed the spread might have happened during a religious gathering, possibly at a picnic organised by the church. “It is proof that the pandemic is still very much alive,” Hikel said.

The latest scandal at the meat processing plant which has been closed down by authorities, is one of several similar incidents over the past few weeks, to have thrown light on the precarious working conditions of many of the industry’s workers, mainly from southern and eastern Europe, who typically work cheek by jowl, live in close quarters, and regularly travel in large groups to visit their families in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria in particular. As well as concern over the workers’ welfare, the outbreaks have triggered a renewed debate over the meat industry, amid widespread calls for an improvement in standards, including better wages and the introduction of a minimum price policy for meat, particularly in supermarkets.

A video put on YouTube a month ago, from the campaign group Arbeitsunrecht (unfair work) which allegedly shows Tönnies workers sitting in their works canteen shoulder to shoulder even as company bosses insisted they were abiding by physical distancing rules, has gone viral as a result of the latest coverage.