January 10, 2022

COVID-19 positive workers allowed to continue working at South Australian abattoir



An abattoir in South Australia's south-east is being allowed to keep COVID-19 positive meat processing workers on the job, amid concerns around food security across Australia.

In a letter to employees on January 9, the abattoir's general manager of operations, Sage Murray, said the company thanked workers for their "understanding and patience during this time".

"As per our call to you today — and as confirmed by SA Health — you are required to present for work tomorrow [January 10] as normal unless you are feeling unwell," Murray wrote. "This applies even if you have tested positive to COVID-19 either by a PCR or rapid test [RAT], and also if you are currently isolating because you are a close contact.

"If you have not completed a recent PCR or RAT test, you will be required to complete a RAT test before commencing work tomorrow.

"SA Health will also conduct a further PCR test … during your shift."

SA Health initially told the ABC that only workers who had returned negative PCR tests would be asked to return to work from January 10, but later confirmed some positive staff had been given approval to begin working again.

"To ensure food security, SA Health has allowed a small group of critical staff who have tested positive and are
asymptomatic, to continue to work in an isolated area away from others," a department spokesperson said.

"These workers must remain at home and isolate when they are not at work until they are cleared from COVID."

The move comes as concerns around food supply chains intensify across Australia, with growing numbers of workers testing positive or being forced into isolation.

Woolworths boss Brad Banducci warned the supply disruptions affecting his company's supermarkets, and most others, will likely last at least another fortnight.

The SA Health spokesperson said the department was "working closely with [Teys] management to ensure the business can continue to operate safely and continue food production at the site".

Premier of South Australia Steven Marshall said SA Health had sent its own testing team to the abattoir to help keep the facility functioning.

"We have SA Health working with the abattoir, working with PIRSA in South Australia, to allow people to go back to work in a controlled and careful manner," he said.

"It is important that we do this, but every single sector will have slightly different requirements."