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Surge in Germany ‘R’ rate linked to abattoir outbreak

On guard: Police outside workers’ homes PICTURE: AFP/GETTY

AN OUTBREAK of coronavirus at a slaughterhouse is being blamed for a surge in Germany’s ‘R’ number — as a chicken processing plant in Wales was shut down after dozens of workers tested positive.

The death toll of 8,882 in Germany is significantly below Britain’s yet the country’s infection reproduction rate has leapt from 1.06 to 2.88 since Friday. It means that for every 100 people infected, a further 288 would get the virus.

More than 1,300 staff at the Tonnies abattoir in Guetersloh, North-Rhine Westphalia, have tested positive for Covid-19. As a result, 7,000 people have been quarantined with police guards outside homes, and nearby schools closed.

The region’s chief minister Armin Laschet warned about ‘an enormous risk of pandemic’, adding: ‘I cannot rule out a broader lockdown.’

Germany has been easing lockdown in recent weeks, including lifting a travel ban for EU member states and Britain last Monday. Shops have been allowed to reopen, schools are partially running again for young children and those taking exams and the Bundesliga football season resumed ahead of other European leagues.

But, as the total number of confirmed virus cases rose by 537 to 190,359 yesterday, chancellor Angela Merkel was facing calls to reimpose strict rules. Ministers were also demanding the slaughterhouse be held financially responsible.

Abattoir owner Clemens Tonnies apologised for the outbreak at a news conference, saying: ‘We are the cause and are fully responsible.’

Meanwhile, 158 staff at a chicken factory in Llangefni, Anglesey, have tested positive for Covid-19, health authorities said. Production was stopped at the 2 Sisters factory on Thursday and staff told to self-isolate.