As the recent outbreak in Germany shows, meat processing facilities offer perfect conditions for the transmission of coronaviruses, with cool temperatures and people cramped in close quarters. Additional changes are needed to protect workers – and theoretically even consumers.
By Philip Bethge
If there is a paradise for SARS-CoV-2, it would probably be a slaughterhouse. Work units in meat plants are cooled to under 12 degrees Celsius. Workers stand near one another and sweat as they labor under pressure – an ideal situation for viruses transmitted by droplets, aerosols or contact.
Canadian and British researchers working under Quentin Durand-Moreau of the University of Alberta have studied the working conditions in meat plants. The “metallic surfaces” and the “low temperatures,” they report, enhance the longevity of viruses like SARS-CoV-2. They also explain that the plants are often very loud: “The need for raised voices to overcome noise may increase transmission of SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers wrote. Workers, they argue, also feel pressured by their precarious work situation to “keep working despite having symptoms of COVID-19.”
“The working conditions in the slaughterhouses cannot be reconciled with the hygiene measures that are currently necessary,” warns Isabella Eckerle, the head of Geneva Center for Emerging Viral Diseases. ……