VICTORIAN meat processor, the Australian Lamb Company at Colac, is planning to re-open on Monday next week, after being closed for about two weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
The company closed on 19 July after a meat inspector was confirmed as the plant’s first COVID-19 case.
However, despite the Department of Health and Human Services today confirming the number of coronavirus cases linked to the ALC plant had increased to 64, a company spokesperson said the processor is planning a staged return to resuming operations.
Livestock agents confirmed they had lambs tentatively booked in for slaughter at the ALC plant on Monday.
The ALC spokesperson said the company is working closely with the DHHS to assess the current situation and determine the safest and most realistic target date for re-opening the plant.
“At this stage, and based on the information provided to us, we are working towards re-opening the plant on Monday 3rd August 2020.
“This date will be subject to Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) clearance and approval,” the spokesperson said.
“Our return-to-work process is not being rushed.
“We are deliberately taking extra time to prepare the plant for a likely resumption of production, at a reduced level and within an appropriate timeframe,” the spokesperson said.
“We also have our own policies in place for managing the transition back to work.
“The ability of our individual workers to resume work will rely upon them showing ALC a negative test result text from DHHS.”
The spokesperson said if workers do not have confirmation of their negative result, they will not be able to come on site.
“The plant’s re-opening will also be done in stages, which means we will be putting through a fraction of the volume of our normal processing operations.”
The Colac facility was deep-cleaned soon after the outbreak was detected and there will be further deep cleaning of the site this Friday 31 July, the spokesperson said.
“Some of the work areas will also be modified to strengthen social distancing.
“Extra health and safety measures will be introduced, in addition to those implemented at the beginning of the year in anticipation of COVID-19.”
The high standard of cleaning practices already in place are mandatory requirements for operating as a domestically and globally licensed abattoir, the ALC spokesperson said.
“Our staff are doing relatively well, under trying and difficult circumstances.”
The spokesperson said the company recognised and respected that everybody’s personal situation is different.
“We’re all working incredibly hard to beat this virus and close down the cluster.”
ALC’s plan to reopen follows the resumption of processing at the Midfield plant last week after its workforce wide testing cleared all workers. JBS Australia’s Brooklyn plant also resumed beef processing last Friday and lamb processing on Tuesday, about three weeks after reporting its first COVID-19 case.
However, the overall tally of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the sector, with the DHHS reporting the number of cases at Victorian meat processing plants as including 121 linked to Bertocchi Smallgoods in Thomastown, 106 linked to Somerville Retail Services in Tottenham, 82 linked to JBS in Brooklyn, 11 to Diamond Valley Pork in Laverton North and 10 cases linked to Don KR Castlemaine.
Victoria today recorded a new daily COVID-19 peak, with 723 new cases overnight, bringing the states total cases to 9998.