A German meat processing factory at the middle of a local Covid-19 outbreak that put two neighboring districts on quarantine has requested government support. The move angered German officials, such as the agriculture minister.
“I don’t have much sympathy with this,” Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, commenting on a request by the Toennies meat factory in hawaii of North Rhine-Westphalia. Companies in Germany are entitled to “labor cost refunds” if they were forced to go on lockdown by the health authorities but still had to pay their workers.
Toennies has recently requested such a refund. Yet, it really is an outbreak at its factory in late June, which saw some 1,500 of its employees testing positive for herpes, that prompted the lockdown in the first place. The authorities also decided to place two neighboring districts in Germany’s most populous region on a quarantine aswell, out of precaution following an incident. Since “an entire region” was forced in to lock down, such reimbursement claims would definitely “not help to lessen the public’s irritation,” Kloeckner noted.
Her sentiment was shared by the regional labor minister, Karl-Josef Laumann, who advised “Mr Toennies and his business partners” to “think very hard about how much more we expect the people of North Rhine Westphalia to put up with.”
The fact that the outbreak was allegedly facilitated by having less safety precautions at the factory, and violation of the work safety rules amid the pandemic, only added fuel to the fire.
Anton Hofreiter, the pinnacle of the Green Party faction in the Bundestag, said the move shows the company management is not to be trusted. “Anyone who relies on a system of exploitation, risks human health and is partially responsible for the quarantine measures imposed should exercise restraint when applying for potential reimbursement,” that he said.
Linda Teuteberg, the Secretary General of the frequently business-friendly liberal Free Democratic Party also known as on the business to just take responsibility for the previous lack in health protection measures for its employees.
The company hasn’t responded to the criticism at the time of yet. Neither has it withdrawn its reimbursement application so far. It is not clear what sum the company is seeking to recoup.
Earlier, North Rhine-Westphalia Prime Minister Armin Laschet called the Covid-19 outbreak at the factory the “largest occurrence of infection” within Germany. At that time, authorities imposed a week-long quarantine on the two areas in the region, incorporating a total populace of about 600,000 people, that was scheduled to last until June 30.
The factory it self was closed on June 17 and is not likely to re-open at the very least until July 17.
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