SA Health later confirmed that in order to preserve food security, “a small group of critical staff” at the plant who had COVID-19 but were asymptomatic had been approved to continue working in an isolated area.
The exemption to continue operating with COVID-positive staff reflected a similar exemption granted to a disability services provider.
The company said none of its workers had been forced to work, and that they had been specifically instructed not to work if unwell.
On Thursday afternoon, a Teys spokesman confirmed the company had shut down the Naracoorte plant with a view to reopening it on Monday.
One meatworker, who tested positive, said the decision to keep the plant operating had been “insane”.
“The other staff that I’ve spoken to, they’re bloody angry about it,” the worker told the ABC on the condition of anonymity.
“They have a duty to us, to keep us safe, and I feel they’ve failed to do that for us and everyone else in the company.”
Naracoorte-Lucindale Council has 432 active COVID cases, according to SA Health data. The council area has an estimated population of 8,574 people.
Close contacts approved to work across critical industries
The meatworks closure came as the South Australian government changed rules to allow close contacts of COVID cases to continue working across a range of critical sectors.
The changes apply to a range of industries and sectors, including defence, energy, agriculture, airports, courts and civil construction.
Permission to use the arrangements will only be triggered when alternative options are exhausted.
The critical workers approved to continue working must be fully vaccinated, free of all symptoms and have returned a negative PCR test before returning to work.
They must also maintain their seven-day quarantine when not at work, undertake daily rapid antigen tests before their shifts, and eat alone.
Premier Steven Marshall said the new regime went further than the arrangement agreed by all government leaders at national cabinet today.
“We spoke last week about chicken and red meat production, and also a single disability case where we have been able to provide a safe environment for people to return to work, over and above what the national cabinet agreed,” he said.
“Obviously on Monday this week there was an agreement with regard to a very defined number of sectors.
“We are now moving on to create additional opportunities.”