July 16, 2020 / 12:06 PM / a month ago

German coronavirus-hit abattoir reopens, but output unclear

HAMBURG, July 16 (Reuters) - The German abattoir hit by a coronavirus outbreak that led to a second lockdown for the entire region reopened its slaughterhouse on Thursday, though the impact of new hygiene measures on the plant’s capacity is unclear.

Authorities on Wednesday said the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck could resume operations after it bolstered health and safety procedures. The meat processing and packing plant remains closed but is due to be inspected on Thursday.

The site, which is particularly important for the German pig farming sector, had closed in mid-June after about 1,500 workers tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak in turn led to about 600,000 people in the surrounding Guetersloh region being put back in lockdown, which has since been lifted.

“It is now important that considerable numbers are again slaughtered at Rheda,” said Torsten Staack, head of the ISN association of German pig farmers.

“There are now about 400,000 pigs waiting to be slaughtered, which is about half the volume for the whole of Germany in a normal week.”

The Rheda-Wiedenbrueck plant in North Rhine-Westphalia normally slaughters about 14% of Germany’s pigs.

Karl-Josef Laumann, state employment and health minister in North Rhine-Westphalia, said it was unclear what impact the new hygiene measures would have on production capacity.

The number of animals that can be processed by Toennies will be dependent on the need to ensure that no employees will have their health endangered in any way, Laumann said on German television channel ZDF.

“We will start today with 6,000 to 8,000 animals,” a Toennies spokesman said, adding that capacity will be adapted to ensure that the new hygiene procedures are complied with fully.

Reporting by Michael Hogan Editing by David Goodman

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