Brazil updates its safety guidelines for meatpackers as COVID-19 hammers processing plants

On 19 June, the Brazilian government published new guidelines for meatpackers after a surge of coronavirus cases were reported at meat plants.
calendar icon 22 June 2020
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Reuters reports that the new guidelines stipulate that workers should keep at least one metre apart. Labour prosecutors criticised the steps, saying that the measures were inadequate.

Under the official agriculture ministry guidelines, no testing is required. The labour prosecutor’s office says that they recommended mandatory testing when consulting on the policy.

A prosecutors' representative said the guidelines ignored key recommendations made by the office that specified minimum distancing of 1.5 metres between workers in common areas of the plant, as well as mass testing.

The prosecutors' recommendations also addressed the quality of face masks required for use, physical distancing and testing protocols.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that meatpacking workers be spaced at least six feet (two meters) apart.

In addition to distancing employees, Brazil's ministry of agriculture said companies should also monitor those with coronavirus symptoms and immediately remove for 14 days anyone suspected of having been infected. They should also track any workers who came in contact with affected employees, it said.

The ministry said if the one-metre distance cannot be implemented, workers at the plants must wear surgical masks in addition to personal protective equipment, and impermeable partitions must be installed between employees.

The ministry said it incorporated certain of the labour prosecutor's recommendations, made in a document dated 2 June and seen by Reuters.

As for the CDC's 2-metre distancing, the ministry said the CDC's guidelines are "compatible with the reality of US meat plants."

Many meatpacking plants in Brazil and the United States have had to close due to coronavirus outbreaks.

As of Friday 19 June, almost 24 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Brazil's southern Rio Grande do Sul state were workers in the local meat industry, according to labour prosecutors and state health data.

Brazil is on track to surpass 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on 19 June, second only to the United States, with total deaths fast approaching 50,000.

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