Dusseldorf After the corona outbreak at meat producer Tönnies, 1,029 employees have now tested positive for the virus. This was announced by the district administrator of the district of Gütersloh, Sven-Georg Adenauer, at a press conference in Gütersloh on Saturday.
A total of 3127 findings were now available. Adenauer emphasized: “We have no significant entry of corona cases into the general population.” The corona screening at the meat factory in Rheda-Wiedenbrück in North Rhine-Westphalia was continued on Saturday.
The company is now closed for 14 days. The district decreed, as the head of the crisis team, Thomas Kuhlbusch, said.
At the conference, Kuhlbusch said: “The trust that we place in Tönnies is zero”. The head of the health department at the district reported that Tönnies had delivered lists of employees by Friday, in which 30 percent had no addresses.
The company has always been slow to respond to inquiries. According to Adenauer, the district of Gütersloh and occupational health and safety then gained access to Tönnies’ personnel files on the night of Saturday.
In the evening, management commented on the allegations. There were legal concerns about the release of the data, which is why it could not be made available immediately. This was data that should not have been allowed under the General Data Protection Regulation.
Managing Director Clemens Tönnies said: “We have a pandemic. Data protection must be at the bottom. “
When asked whether he would step down, Tönnies said that he would lead the company out of the crisis and then people would continue to look. “We won’t go on like this. We will change this industry, ”said the head of the meat factory.
According to Kuhlbusch, testing in the district of Gütersloh is now based on the infection source. When you are done with tonnies, the next step will be to approach all subcontractors and make compromises there.
If the company goes back on the grid, it is only so that it can meet the requirements of a pandemic, says Kuhlbusch. District Administrator Adenauer added: As long as it is not “clean”, the company will remain closed – no matter how long it takes.
Regional lockdown not excluded
On Friday evening, Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) no longer ruled out a regional lockdown due to the outbreak at Tönnies. The infection process can still be localized. “If this changes, a comprehensive lockdown in the region may also be necessary,” he said in Düsseldorf.
The head of government spoke of a massive outbreak: “We perceive an infection that is new in this magnitude,” said Laschet. “It is the largest, unprecedented level of infection in North Rhine-Westphalia.”
On Friday evening, the district of Gütersloh tightened its measures and quarantined all employees at the Rheda-Wiedenbrück location. This also affected the administration, management and top management, the district said. All “household members” of the employees are also in quarantine.
Some employees can according to the information in so-called work quarantine. This means that they can only move between their place of work and their place of residence. This also applies to Clemens Tönnies, partner in Germany’s largest slaughterhouse, Tönnies, as a group spokesman confirmed.
After the virus had appeared in the Tönnies factory, schools and daycare centers had already been ordered in the Gütersloh district. According to previous information, the district wants to avert a lockdown with these and other measures.
The Bundeswehr is now helping out with the ordered mass tests. 25 soldiers arrived on Friday and took their first samples from employees. They also took part in organizational work: “Barriers and fences were set up,” said the spokesman for the Bundeswehr in NRW, Uwe Kort.
The soldiers come from Augustdorf in the neighboring district of Lippe and from Rhineland-Palatinate. “But the district still has responsibility,” the Bundeswehr spokesman continued. “We only support.”
Lauterbach considers production to be “unjustifiable”
After the Corona outbreak at Tönnies, the SPD health politician Karl Lauterbach demanded that the meat factory in Rheda-Wiedenbrück be closed immediately.
The source of the infections has not yet been discovered. “We don’t know, did this happen in the canteen, on the way there, in the processing itself, is it the ventilation? That means that people could continue to become infected. I would shut down the business under these circumstances. ”He knew that the meat would then no longer be processed. “Then that’s how it is.”
In view of the Corona outbreaks, Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier has given assurances that maladministration in the meat industry should be dealt with. “The supply of food is a great asset and I want the trust in food and meat” made in Germany “to be maintained,” the CDU politician told Deutschlandfunk. That means “that we also ensure that those responsible are held accountable and that the grievances are remedied by making appropriate changes.”
According to information from Deutschlandfunk, Altmaier emphasized that this applies not only to work contracts with Eastern European employees, but also to the accommodation and working conditions on site.
The federal government had already announced the consequences of the work contracts about a month ago: From 1 January 2021, the slaughtering and processing of meat should only be permitted with employees of its own company. “I think it is right that we address these grievances, we will address them,” said Altmaier.
Minister of Labor Heil criticizes unscrupulousness
Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil wants to tighten controls in response to the Corona outbreaks: “In the pandemic, employees are willfully exposed to a significant health risk,” Heil told the “Tagesspiegel”. “We will no longer accept this form of ruthless business. It cannot be that people from Central and Eastern Europe are exploited in Germany so that unscrupulous companies can make billions in profits, ”said Heil, referring to Germany’s largest pork entrepreneur and managing partner Clemens Tönnies.
“The occupational safety authorities and customs will check closely. They will check more frequently under what conditions they work, what kind of accommodation the employees live in, whether transports to work are organized in such a way that not everyone is necessarily infected, ”said Heil. In addition, responsible companies should also independently come up with the idea of ensuring decent working, living and transport conditions.
Around 60 people met on Saturday afternoon in front of the Tönnies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrück to protest against the company. “We are here, we are loud because you steal the rights of the people,” called a voice choir.
Numerous people held up posters that said, “Stop the Tönnies system” and “Animals are not a commodity”. Some protesters had painted themselves with fake blood. A local police spokesman said early in the afternoon that the registered demonstration has so far been peaceful.
The protest was organized by several environmental and animal protection organizations, including Fridays for Future. “We see ourselves as a justice movement,” says Stefan Schneidt from Fridays For Future Gütersloh. Tönnies clearly violates labor law and animal welfare.
Special meeting of the NRW state cabinet on Sunday
The corona virus had already broken out several times in slaughterhouses. The event shows the problematic working and accommodation conditions in the meat industry, said Laschet.
The CDU politician sees a major problem in the wide range of places where Tönnies employees live. The Prime Minister spoke of a difficult situation because the employees of the slaughterhouse lived in addition to the Gütersloh district in Warendorf, Soest, Bielefeld, Hamm and other places. This spread poses an enormous risk of a pandemic – also in the border area to neighboring Lower Saxony. Everything is now being done to contain the outbreak.
The NRW state cabinet wants to deal with the Corona outbreak at Tönnies in a special session on Sunday. There the state government will assess the situation again, said Laschet.
Health Minister Jens Spahn and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (both CDU) have agreed to provide as much staff as is necessary. “Everything that is necessary will be done – also with the support of the federal government,” said Laschet.
The prime minister appealed to people in the Gütersloh region in particular to “strictly” observe hygiene rules. “Everyone is now challenged, even those who are not employed in the meat industry,” said Laschet. Among other things, everyone should adhere to the obligation to wear a mask and keep their distance from other people.
The outbreak has an impact on numerous neighboring towns in the region where Tönnies employees live. In the city of Hamm, around 40 kilometers away, three schools were closed until the summer holidays after three children had been tested positively by Tönnies employees.
“All teachers and students of the respective classes as well as all other contact persons for the infected children are tested by the municipal Coronamobil and quarantined until the test result,” the city reported. A quarantine affects primary, secondary and secondary schools. A total of 95 Tönnies employees live in Hamm.
All Tönnies employees in the Warendorf district are also placed in quarantine. The circle recommended that all people living with Tönnies employees also go to quarantine.
Problems also in Göttingen and Kassel
By Friday, the district administration had 110 infected employees known. Most of them lived in Oelde, the district reported. 680 employees lived in the district area and were employed by external service providers. There would also be around 300 permanent Tönnies employees.
In the particularly badly affected city of Oelde, schools and kindergartens have been closed since Thursday. They should open again on Monday.
The federal government urged containment of the outbreak. It is now important to break the infection chains as quickly as possible, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Berlin. It was therefore right that large-scale series tests had been arranged in the Gütersloh district.
A new regulation enables more tests without symptoms at the till costs. The Robert Koch Institute has contact with the local health department.
Laschet paid respect to the parents and children, who are now confronted with closed schools and day care centers again due to the Corona outbreak at Tönnies. They were the first to be affected by the measures taken by the authorities, said the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia. “I can understand very well, to understand what that means for a child who hasn’t been to daycare and school for months, who then needs it again, and who is now a victim of this process. It’s very difficult to explain to a child, ”he said.
The city of Göttingen also faces challenges with another corona outbreak. “We now have to hope that everyone keeps a cool head in this exceptional situation,” said Christian Hölscher from the youth welfare office in Göttingen on Friday. Nearly 120 infections with the corona virus were confirmed within two days, the city said.
The authorities had quarantined the affected residential complex in the city center on Thursday. Around 700 residents are affected. It is “a local but massive infection,” said Lower Saxony’s Minister of Social Affairs Carola Reimann (SPD). “These events keep showing us that the pandemic is not over.”
In Kassel, meanwhile, around 20 people are in quarantine in a refugee accommodation after around 20 corona documents. It is the largest outbreak in the city so far, said health department head Ulrike Gote (Greens). Because there are four children among the infected, a school and a day care center were closed.
The number of new infections with the coronavirus detected within 24 hours is now higher than in a month. The health authorities reported 770 new cases to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) (data as of June 19, midnight). Most recently, the value was so high on May 20 (797 new infections).
A total of 188,534 people in Germany have been shown to have contracted Sars-CoV-2 since the beginning of the Corona crisis, as reported by the RKI on Friday morning.