Coronavirus: Germany puts slaughterhouse outbreak region on new lockdown

More than 1,500 workers in Guetersloh county test positive as top health official optimistic second wave can be prevented

Members of German Red Cross (DRK) stand in front of a house where employees of the Toennies meat factory live in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck, Germany, Monday, June 22, 2020. About 40 mobile test teams are on the road that day to visit employees of the Toennies company at home in their quarantine. Hundreds of new coronavirus cases are linked to the large meatpacking plant, officials ordered the closure of the slaughterhouse, as well as isolation and tests for everyone else who had worked at the Toennies site — putting about 7,000 people under quarantiner.  (David Inderlied/dpa via AP)
Powered by automated translation

A German region is returning to lockdown for after reporting a sharp rise in coronavirus cases linked to an outbreak at a slaughterhouse.

Residents of Guetersloh county, in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, should have contact only with people from their own household or one person from outside, Governor Armin Laschet said on Tuesday.

Cinemas, gyms and bars will be closed but restaurants will be allowed to continue to serve people from the same household, he added.
"For the first time in Germany, we will return an entire district to the measures that applied several weeks ago," Mr Laschet said.

The measures will be lifted on June 30 if the situation has improved, he said.

Police officers stand at the residential homes of employees of the abattoir company Toennies during their quarantine in the district Suerenheide of Verl on June 22, 2020.

 The company stopped its production after more than a thousand of employees were tested positive on the novel coronavirus. The German government banned the use of subcontractors in the meat industry after a string of coronavirus infections among mainly foreign slaughterhouse workers sparked alarm already in May 2020. "It's time to clean up the sector," Labour Minister Hubertus Heil said. From January 1, 2021 abattoirs and meat processing plants will have to directly employ their workers, putting an end to the controversial practice of relying on chains of subcontractors to supply labourers from abroad, often from Bulgaria and Romania. / AFP / Ina FASSBENDER
Police officers stand outsidethe residential homes of slaughterhouse employees who have been placed under strict quarantine. AFP

More than 1,500 workers at the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck have now tested positive for the virus.

Thousands more have been placed under strict quarantine rules in an effort to halt the outbreak.

Tuesday’s limited lockdown came as one of Germany’s top health officials said the country was at risk of suffering a second wave of Covid-19.

The head of the Robert Koch Institute for public health, Lothar Wieler, said however that he was optimistic it could be prevented.

Mr Wieler added that there was no scientific evidence that suggests social distancing rules imposed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus should be lifted.

Before this latest outbreak, Germany had been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic.

Widespread testing, tracing and hospital preparation measures were credited with keeping Germany’s death toll well below those of other large European states such as France and the United Kingdom.

Germany has so far confirmed more than 192,000 cases of the virus and reported nearly 9,000 deaths.