AUSTRALIA’S peak doctor body has called for a national approach to face mask use in the community, including for meat processors, as the second wave of COVID-19 infections continues to rise nationally.
Australia today recorded its second largest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started – 502 cases – with most of these – 484 – being reported in Victoria.
Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Service reported today that 61 cases have now been linked to the Tottenham meat packer Somerville Retail Services, 47 cases are linked to the JBS Australia abattoir in Brooklyn and 17 cases are connected to the Australian Lamb Company plant in Colac.
Face masks are believed to have played a role in protecting the Warrnambool’s Midfield abattoir from COVID-19 infections. Its workers have been wearing masks for the past seven weeks and the plant has been deep-cleaned daily for the past eight weeks to minimise infection risk.
Face mask use also been made mandatory at Colac’s Australian Lamb Company abattoir since the COVID-19 pandemic started and this practice will be continued when it resumes operations, a company spokesperson said today.
In Victoria, face coverings are mandatory for Melbourne and Mitchell Shire residents when leaving their homes. Regional residents have been urged to wear a face covering or mask when unable to socially distance themselves.
Midfield is the latest abattoir to be caught up in the pandemic after opting to close this after a meat inspector that visited the plant last week subsequently tested positive for coronavirus. The processor has not recorded any positive cases among its workers prior to or after the precautionary closure of the plant.
Midfield opted to stay closed up to today to protect its community, despite 300 of about 900 workers returning negative COVID-19 test results yesterday and DHHS advising that it could resume operations. The final COVID-19 test results for all Midfield workers have not been released.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone told Sheep Central that although the AMA didn’t have a policy on individual industries, there were requirements for masks specific to Victoria in place at the moment that would apply to meatworks.
“The AMA believes that we need a national approach to this, including for industries that are at high risk – with meatworks being one of these,” he said.
“There have been big outbreaks overseas and we are now seeing similar problems in meatworks over here.
“Social distancing is not possible and masks are certainly recommended in these circumstances,” Dr Bartone said.
Dr Bartone said in a Channel 7 ‘Sunrise’ interview that the AMA has been calling for the National Cabinet to be reconvened and come to a consensus position to inform all Australians about the importance of wearing face masks in community ‘hotspot’ areas where there are outbreaks and increased rates of community transmission.
“And the evidence is now really clear that if we do add another layer of protection, in terms of wearing face masks, to the other measures of physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette; we will significantly reduce the rate of COVID-19 spread in our community.”