June 10, 2020 / 3:09 PM / a month ago

Brazil's BRF closes Rio Verde meat plant as it tests workforce for coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: Meatpacking company BRF SA's logo, which is one of the biggest food companies in the world, is pictured in Lucas do Rio Verde, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, July 27, 2017. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Food processor BRF SA has closed its largest plant in Brazil since last Friday as it tests some 8,600 workers there for the novel coronavirus, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

BRF did not provide a timeline for the reopening of the Rio Verde facility, which is located in Goiás state and processes pork and chicken.

The company said it tested all employees at the facility between June 5 and June 6, and that 32% of the results are available. BRF did not reveal whether any workers at the plant tested positive for the virus, which causes the sometimes deadly COVID-19 illness.

A representative of the labor prosecutor’s office told Reuters by telephone 480 of the applied tests had been processed, with 262 employees at the BRF plant testing positive for the virus.

BRF did not have an immediate comment on the results it received.

The labor prosecutor’s office said BRF used Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on the workforce, and after a high rate of infections, the company voluntarily closed the plant and decided to retest employees.

BRF had said earlier in the day that starting on Wednesday it would conduct additional testing in groups of employees in a bid to reopen the massive plant under the safest possible conditions, but did not elaborate on the reasons.

Brazil has emerged as the latest pandemic epicenter with more than 739,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases - second only to the United States - and more than 38,000 related deaths reported.

Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Nick Zieminski

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