Air cooling systems in slaughterhouses could pose Covid-19 risks, warns an expert
Air cooling systems used in slaughterhouses could be an overlooked risk factor for Covid-19 outbreaks, according to scientists who studied conditions in a meat processing facility at the heart of an infection group in Germany.
Martin Exner, an expert in hygiene and public health at the University of Bonn, spent two days analyzing the Tönnies plant in Gütersloh, a west German city that was closed again this week after around 1,500 employees were infected with the corona virus.
At a press conference, Exner said the air filtration system in the slaughter area had contributed to the spread of aerosol droplets laden with the virus and described it as a “newly identified risk factor”.
The area of the facility where the animals are slaughtered, gutted and cut into pieces is kept at a cool 6-10 ° C. To do this, however, the cooling system only circulated the same unfiltered air and thus kept the aerosols moving, said Exner. A filter attached to the cooling system could not keep the virus away, as his analysis showed.
The results would have “major consequences” for other slaughterhouses, Exner told reporters.
Slaughterhouses have also been at the heart of the Covid-19 outbreaks in America, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, Brazil and other German regions.
Around 640,000 people in two neighboring districts are also affected by the newly enforced “soft lockdown” measures.
Schools and kindergartens have closed, bars, cinemas and gyms have had to close. About 7,000 slaughterhouse employees have been asked to quarantine themselves.
A “contact ban”, which only allows two people from different households to meet, has been reinstated, while locals are advised to stay at home at the beginning of the summer holidays, which officially begin in the region on Monday.
Three northern German states, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, have declared that tourists from the affected districts are not allowed to go on vacation in their regions, with hotels and holiday home providers being instructed to cancel bookings if necessary.
Austria has now issued a travel ban for non-essential travel to and from the entire state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Armin Laschet, the Prime Minister of Germany’s most populous state, has warned against defaming people from the region affected by the second lockdown. “One thing is simply not possible, and that is the stigmatization of the people of Gütersloh,” said Laschet, who is also one of the three official candidates for the leadership of Angela Merkel’s CDU. – The guard