In single Brazilian state, some 2,400 meat plant workers catch coronavirus

More than a quarter of the confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul are among meat plant workers, the labour prosecutors’ office said June 1.

The prosecutors said in a statement that an estimated 2,399 employees from 24 slaughterhouses in 18 municipalities of the state have been infected. That equates to 25.7 per cent of the 9,332 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Rio Grande do Sul, according to Health Ministry statistics.

The findings corroborate evidence that meat packers have become hot spots in Brazil for the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease. Overall, Brazil has more than 500,000 cases and nearly 30,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Brazil is the world’s biggest beef and chicken exporter and the fourth-largest pork exporter.

In a separate statement the previous week, Rio Grande do Sul Senator Paulo Paim said meat packers in the state employ 50,000 people. He said countrywide the average number of workers per plant is 2,000.

According to Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry, the country has 446 meat plants, including 194 beef, 148 poultry, 90 pork plants and 14 for other types of meat.

Two of Brazil’s largest meat packers, JBS SA and BRF SA, own plants in Rio Grande do Sul state. Both firms had units temporarily closed there due to outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

There have also been outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in Santa Catarina state, where the poultry and pork industry directly employs 60,000 workers, according to local industry groups.

JBS on Saturday got a favourable court order to reopen a poultry plant in Santa Catarina that had been closed since May 18.

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