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German abattoir to resume meatpacking after coronavirus outbreak

A truck of Toennies Meat arrives at the Toennies meat factory after Germany's largest slaughterhouse was reopened following a lockdown due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among its employees, in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck, Germany, July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

HAMBURG (Reuters) - A German abattoir at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak will be permitted to resume meat packing and processing on Friday, after a new health and hygiene concept was approved, authorities said.

The Toennies abattoir was closed in mid June after about 1,500 workers tested positive for COVID-19 but was permitted to resume slaughtering animals on Thursday. The virus outbreak in turn caused a lockdown for 600,000 people in the surrounding Guetersloh region, which is now lifted.

The huge meatpacking and processing section of the Toennies plant in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck in North Rhine-Westphalia will be allowed resume processing and packing pigmeat in a test phase on Friday, the local government authority Rheda-Wiedenbrueck said.

Some 2,714 personnel will be permitted to resume work in the processing section of the plant, the authority said.

The new hygiene regime includes changes to the plant’s ventilation system, separation of workstations through curtains, compulsory wearing of facemasks, two coronavirus tests a week for all production personnel and inspections of personnel accommodation if it is provided for them.

The plant normally slaughters and processes around 14% of Germany’s pigs, and the shutdown has caused a sharp fall in German pork prices.

Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Larry King