Cargill says it will restart Alberta beef plant as of May 4

FILE PHOTO: A Cargill logo is pictured on the Provimi Kliba and Protector animal nutrition factory in Lucens, Switzerland, September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Cargill said on Wednesday it will start to reopen its beef processing plant in High River, Alberta in early May after the plant was forced to close down because hundreds of workers had become infected with the coronavirus.

In a statement, Cargill [CARG.UL] said it would resume operations after a 14-day temporary shutdown, with one shift a day beginning on May 4. The company announced on April 20 it would temporarily idle the plant, which represents about 36% of Canada’s total beef processing capacity.

The company said all healthy employees from its slaughter department who have not been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19 for 14 days are asked to report to work. Employees should also practice social distancing in the facility.

As of Tuesday, 759 cases of COVID-19 had been found in workers from the Cargill plant, according to Alberta Health Services data, with 1,167 total cases linked to the plant’s outbreak. One worker has died.

Health officials have said carpooling by workers to the plant was a contributing factor. On Wednesday, Cargill said busses with protective barriers between the seats will be provided as part of its new safety measures. Additional barriers have also been installed in bathrooms and lockers have been reassigned to provide workers with more space.

Reporting by Kelsey Johnson, additional reporting by Rod Nickle in Winnipeg; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis