It was only a good month ago that the company reacted Clemens Tonnies Sensitive to accusations that the meat industry is particularly vulnerable to Corona infections. "I'm surprised that our industry is being placed under general suspicion here," said Germany's largest meat producer at the time in an interview with the "Westfalenblatt" newspaper.
Previously, at the competitor Westfleisch 120 employees in the Coesfeld district have tested positive for Corona. The North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Labor ied a series of hygiene regulations for slaughterhouses, which Tonnies also had to comply with.
It apparently did little good for the slaughterhouse. So far 803 new Corona infections registered – and not all results are available yet. The row testing at the plant is expected to last until next Tuesday, according to authorities.
All employees at the Rheda-Wiedenbruck site will have to be quarantined. This also affects the administration, management and top management of the group, the district of Gutersloh announced on Friday evening. However, some employees are to go into so-called work quarantine. This means that they are only allowed to move between their place of work and residence. That also applies to Clemens Tonnies, a shareholder in Germany's largest slaughterhouse.
After Corona outbreak at Tonnies: Bundeswehr helps with mass tests
And in the process German armed forces help. On Friday afternoon, 25 soldiers from Augustdorf in the neighboring district of Lippe and from Rhineland-Palatinate arrived at the plant in Rheda-Wiedenbruck. The spokesman for the Bundeswehr in North Rhine-Westphalia, Uwe Kort, went on to say: "Barriers and fences have been erected."Thirteen of the soldiers are on the ground as medics, twelve for documentation.
So the Tonnies slaughterhouse has now been hit much harder than its competitor Westfleisch. The company's reaction is correspondingly meek: "We can only apologize," Tonnies spokesman Andre Vielstadte told the press on Wednesday. The district administrator of the district of Gutersloh, Sven-Georg Adenauer (CDU), ordered the temporary closure of the slaughterhouse.
Guterslohn district plans to close all schools and daycare centers by the summer vacations
The Corona outbreak has consequences not only for the slaughterhouse, but for the entire district: All schools and daycare centers are now closed until the summer vacations. The closure was a "proven means" to stop the spread of the virus, said District Administrator Adenauer. He said he knew that parents were "now upset" because school had in some cases just started again.
A general shutdown of the district, however, is not being considered, said Adenauer – although the crucial mark of 50 new infections per 100.000 inhabitants in seven days had been clearly exceeded. But the closures are a milder remedy than a complete shutdown of the district, he said. Nevertheless: fear of a second lockdown is growing.
NRW Minister of Health Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) explained in Dusseldorf, now it must be prevented that again a Corona hotspot develops as in Heinsberg, where in March after a carnival celebration a pandemic situation arose.
The NRW Ministry of Health continues to classify the Corona outbreak as a local event. "Therefore, the focus is particularly on farm-related measures," the ministry said Friday. The ministry and local authorities analyzed and evaluated the situation in the Gutersloh district very closely.
The neighboring district of Paderborn also placed 54 employees of the Tonnies company who live in its area under domestic quarantine. Since Thursday, he said, five new corona infections have been recorded there with reference to Tonnies in Rheda-Wiedenbruck, about 70 kilometers away. District Administrator Manfred Muller had therefore ordered a 14-day quarantine from Saturday as a precautionary measure.
What is the cause of the Corona outbreak at Tonnies??
Company representatives could only speculate as to the cause of the outbreak: Employees had returned from home leave in Romania and Bulgaria and could have brought the virus in from there.
They might have used the long weekend around Corpus Christi – a public holiday in NRW – for a quick visit home, said Gereon Schulze Althoff, head of the pandemic staff at Tonnies. Another reason for the rapid spread, they say, is working in refrigerated rooms that provide ideal conditions for the virus.
In the meantime, the public prosecutor's office in Bielefeld has five Criminal complaints received. Among them was a complaint by Bielefeld Member of Parliament Britta Habelmann (Greens), said Chief Public Prosecutor Martin Temmen on Friday. Investigations are now being conducted against unknown persons on initial suspicion of negligent bodily injury and violation of the Infection Protection Act.
Contracts for work and temporary work make controls more difficult
NRW Minister President Armin Laschet (CDU) supported the Tonnies theory that returnees from Bulgaria and Romania were responsible for the outbreak, "and that's where the virus came from". It has nothing to do with the relaxations, he defended his Corona policy to ZDF, but rather with the accommodation of people in shelters and the working conditions in factories.
For associations and representatives of the SPD and the Greens, the massive outbreak at market leader Tonnies is a sign of the industry's vulnerability. The practice of employing temporary workers and concluding contracts for work and services has led to an opaque network of subcontractors that systematically makes controls difficult or even impossible, said Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) our editorial team.
Animal rights activists: Tonnies blocks overdue reforms
For the Environmental protection organization Greenpeace sick "the whole system cheap meat". It is responsible for labor exploitation, animal suffering, climate gases and forest destruction for the cultivation of animal feed," Stephanie Towe, the organization's agricultural expert, told our editorial team. In view of the pandemic, it called for a consistent Restructuring of meat production.
Companies such as Tonnies have been blocking overdue reforms for decades, such as animal welfare regulations on husbandry: grievances are tolerated politically and, above all, talked down by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. The union Food, Beverages and Catering (NGG) also called for "an end to this sick system at long last".
For Tonnies, production is over for the time being. The closure of the establishment is expected to last ten to 14 days. "If the infection figures go down, it can also go faster," said District Administrator Adenauer. According to Tonnies, 20 pigs per day are slaughtered in Rheda-Wiedenbruck.000 pigs slaughtered and cut up. Tonnies now wants to increase the number of slaughters at other sites.