COVID-positive abattoir staff told to keep working, as supply chain issues start to bite in SA

An abattoir in South Australia’s south-east is being allowed to keep COVID-positive meat processing workers on the job, amid concerns around food security across Australia.

The COVID-19 outbreak at Teys Australia’s Naracoorte site now stands at 140.

In a letter to employees on Sunday, the abattoir’s general manager operations, Sage Murray, said the company thanked workers for their “understanding and patience during this time”.

“As per our call to you today — and as confirmed by SA Health — you are required to present for work tomorrow [Monday] as normal unless you are feeling unwell,” Mr Murray wrote.

“This applies even if you have tested positive to COVID-19 either by a PCR or rapid test [RAT], and also if you are currently isolating because you are a close contact.

“If you have not completed a recent PCR or RAT test, you will be required to complete a RAT test before commencing work tomorrow.

SA Health initially told the ABC that only workers who had returned negative PCR tests would be asked to return to work from Monday, but later confirmed some positive staff had been given approval to begin working again.

“To ensure food security, SA Health has allowed a small group of critical staff who have tested positive and are asymptomatic, to continue to work in an isolated area away from others,” a department spokesperson said.

“These workers must remain at home and isolate when they are not at work until they are cleared from COVID.”

Empty meat shelves in a supermarketEmpty meat shelves in a supermarket
Fresh produce, such as meat, is in short supply in some stores.(Supplied: Chris Picton)

Supply chain concerns nationwide

The move comes as concerns around food supply chains intensify across the country, with growing numbers of workers testing positive or being forced into isolation.

The SA Health spokesperson said the department was “working closely with [Teys] management to ensure the business can continue to operate safely and continue food production at the site”.

Premier Steven Marshall said SA Health had sent its own testing team to the abattoir to help keep the facility functioning.

“We have SA Health working with the abattoir, working with PIRSA in South Australia, to allow people to go back to work in a controlled and careful manner,” he said.

“It is important that we do this, but every single sector will have slightly different requirements.”

Teys Australia has been contacted for comment.

On Monday, Mr Marshall announced 4,024 new COVID-19 cases in the state.

Two people, aged in their 80s and 90s, died in the 24 hours leading up to Monday afternoon.

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