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Officials report 2,400 COVID-19 infections among meat plant workers in Brazilian state

Brazil’s labour prosecutor reports that more than 25 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Rio Grande do Sul are among meat plant workers.

3 June 2020, at 9:53am

Reuters reports that the prosecutors estimate 2,399 employees from 24 slaughterhouses in 18 municipalities in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul have been infected. The translates to 25.7 percent of the 9,332 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state as of Sunday 31 May, according to health ministry statistics.

The findings corroborate evidence that meatpackers have become hotspots in Brazil for the coronavirus. Overall, Brazil has more than 500,000 cases and nearly 30,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Brazil is the world's biggest beef and chicken exporter and the fourth largest pork exporter.

In a separate statement on Thursday 28 May, Rio Grande do Sul Senator Paulo Paim said meatpackers in the state employ 50,000 people. He said countrywide the average number of workers per plant is 2,000.

According to Brazil's agriculture ministry, the country has 446 meat plants, including 194 beef, 148 poultry, 90 pork plants and 14 for other types of meat.

Two of Brazil's largest meatpackers, JBS SA and BRF SA, own plants in Rio Grande do Sul state. Both firms had units temporarily closed there due to outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

There have also outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in Santa Catarina state, where the poultry and pork industry directly employ 60,000 workers, according to local industry groups.

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