Germany extends lockdown in district hit by COVID-19 in abattoir

Medical personnel work at a drive-in testing site at an out-of-service aircraft hangar at Guetersloh Airport following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Guetersloh, Germany, Germany June 27, 2020. REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler

BERLIN (Reuters) - The western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) said on Monday that as a precaution it would extend by one week a lockdown in one of two districts affected by an outbreak of the coronavirus at a slaughterhouse.

NRW premier Armin Laschet said restrictions keeping bars, museums, galleries, cinemas, sports halls, gyms and swimming pools shut would remain in place in the district of Guetersloh for now even though the outbreak was under control.

A lockdown in the neighbouring district of Warendorf will be lifted on Tuesday because the number of positive tests there was lower than in Guetersloh.

Some 600,000 people in both municipalities were forced back into lockdown on June 23 after more than 1,500 workers at a meat processing plant tested positive for COVID-19, as well as some of their family members and 24 people with no ties to the plant.

“We see that the situation is improving day by day but as a precaution we will wait for more tests to be carried out and then decide if we can lift it,” Laschet told a news conference.

Laschet, a leading conservative contender to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel when her fourth term in office expires next year, said the situation was brought under control because of widespread testing and restrictive measures.

The outbreak at the abattoir has sparked a debate about standards in Germany’s food industry and its reliance on migrant labour, particularly from Romania.

Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said last week Germany was making progress towards introducing an animal welfare levy, one of several measures aimed at cleaning up the meat trade.

From July 1, meat processing companies in NRW with more than 100 workers must test all employees twice a week, NRW health minister Karl-Josef Laumann told Monday’s news conference.

Reporting by Joseph Nasr, Editing by Timothy Heritage