German abattoir scandal puts cooling systems under COVID spotlight

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BERLIN (Reuters) – A COVID-19 outbreak in Germany is forcing meatpacking plants to review infection risks posed by their cooling systems, placing the industry at the sharp end of growing global concerns over airborne transmission of the coronavirus.

Toennies, a slaughterhouse and meat producer, shut down one of its plants in western Germany in June after more than 1,500 workers were found to be infected with the virus.

It had to install high-efficiency HEPA filters typically used in hospitals and on airplanes before being allowed to reopen on Friday.

It now plans to retrofit its other sites. “We anticipate that the authorities will issue this as a requirement for the entire industry,” a spokesman said.

Low temperatures, which generally allow viruses to survive in the air longer, and crowded working conditions have made meatpacking plants global coronavirus hotspots.

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