Germany extends coronavirus lockdown in hard-hit district

Germany extends coronavirus lockdown in district hit by outbreak at slaughterhouse where 1,500 of 7,000 employees have tested positive

  • North Rhine-Westphalia state has extended lockdown in hard-hit district
  • Guetersloh will remain on lockdown until July 7 ‘as a precaution’, premier said 
  • Neighbouring district of Warendorf able to exit lockdown as planned on June 30

Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia state on Monday extended a coronavirus lockdown on a district hit hard by an outbreak at a slaughterhouse, but lifted the restrictions on a neighbouring area.

The districts of Guetersloh and Warendorf last Tuesday became the first in Germany to go back into lockdown since the coronavirus shutdowns began easing in May, affecting over 600,000 people.

It was the country’s first big setback in tackling the pandemic.

Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia state on Monday extended a coronavirus lockdown on a district hit hard by an outbreak at a slaughterhouse, but lifted the restrictions on a neighbouring area. Above,people queue to be tested for Covid-19 infection at the Carl Miele vocational school following a Covid-19 outbreak at the nearby Toennies meat packaging center

The districts of Guetersloh and Warendorf last Tuesday became the first in Germany to go back into lockdown since the coronavirus shutdowns began easing in May. Above, a member of the German army adjusts the googles of a health professional outside the houses of employees of the Toennies factory

The headquarters of the meat processing company Toennies in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck, western Germany 

The western state’s premier Armin Laschet said Guetersloh would remain on lockdown until July 7 ‘as a precaution’, even if testing showed only a limited spread of the virus from the slaughterhouse to the wider population.

The neighbouring district of Warendorf however will be able to exit lockdown as planned on June 30, Laschet told a journalists in Duesseldorf.

For Warendorf, ‘from tomorrow the same rules will apply as elsewhere in North Rhine-Westphalia’, he said. That means cinemas, swimming pools, bars and gyms will be allowed to reopen just as the summer holidays get going.

Laschet, a leading candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as the conservative CDU party’s chancellor candidate in next year’s election, added that the COVID-19 outbreak that started at the Toennies meat processing plant in Guetersloh was ‘under control’.

The neighbouring district of Warendorf will be able to exit lockdown as planned on June 30, Laschet told a journalists in Duesseldorf. Above, a translator speaks to residents of apartment buildings that house workers and their families from the nearby Toennies meat packing plant who are all under quarantine in the town of Verl

Eastern European workers at the Toennies plant are seen behind a barrier at their accommodation in western Germany

City employees deliver food and water to residents of apartment buildings that house workers from the nearby Toennies meat packing plant

More than 1,500 out of some 7,000 employees at the abattoir have tested positive for the virus so far. Many of them are from Romania and Bulgaria and live in shared housing near the plant.

The cluster pushed the area’s infection rate up past a nationwide agreed threshold of 50 new infections per 100,000 residents, forcing the state to pull the “emergency brake”.

Guetersloh’s rate remained very high on Monday, at 112.6 infections per 100,000 people over the past seven days, according to the Robert Koch Institute for disease control.

Lockdowns were imposed in Warendorf and Guetersloh (shown in red) in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia following a spike in the R rate linked to a meat factory in the area. Guetersloh’s rate remained very high on Monday, but Warendorf district’s infection rate has fallen to 22 per 100,000

But Warendorf district’s infection rate has fallen to 22 per 100,000.

If the abattoir employees are taken out of the calculations, both districts are below the agreed threshold.

Laschet said the regional government’s swift containment measures had succeeded in keeping the cluster localised and in preventing the virus from jumping over to the general population.

Germany has recorded nearly 194,000 coronavirus cases and 8,961 deaths to date, giving it one of the lowest fatality rates in Europe.

It has however suffered several slaughterhouse outbreaks, raising questions about the industry’s health and safety conditions and fuelling calls for reform.

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