Air cooling system in German abattoir helped spread coronavirus among hundreds of workers

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The air cooling system used in a German slaughterhouse helped spread the coronavirus among hundreds of workers, a hygiene expert said on Wednesday, a day after the mass outbreak triggered renewed lockdowns in the area.

More than 1,500 out of 7,000 employees have tested positive so far at the Tonnies meat processing plant in the western district of Guetersloh in the country’s single biggest COVID-19 cluster to date.

Professor Martin Exner, a hygiene expert at the University of Bonn tasked by Guetersloh district to study the outbreak, told a press conference that the plant’s air filtration system had contributed to the spread of virus-laden aerosol droplets.

The ventilation system is aimed at keeping temperatures at a cool 6-10 degrees Celsius but continually recycles the same untreated air into the room, said Exner.

“This has so far been an overlooked risk factor” in the pandemic, he told reporters, warning that the finding would have “big consequences” for other slaughterhouses as well.

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