A total of 659 people have tested positive for coronavirus at a slaughterhouse in northwest Germany, according to health authorities, who have conducted more than 900 tests. This outbreak of the disease has been detected at the Rheda-Wiedenbrück meat processing plant in the Gütersloh district, which is run by Tönnies, Germany’s leading meat processing company.

About 7,000 people working in the area have been quarantined due to possible exposure to the virus. A district spokesman told German media that the number of infected people cannot be ruled out. Most of the employees come from Eastern Europe.

The company believes that the outbreak may have arisen from increased travel by its workers to their home countries when restrictions were lifted. Another possible cause would be a problem in the plant’s cooling system.

The results of the coronavirus tests have led the local authorities to close the plant and to shut down the schools and nurseries in the German region. Authorities hope that these measures will work to stop the spread of the outbreak in the population.

Many of the employees at the Gütersloh slaughterhouse come from Eastern Europe and are housed in communal facilities. In Berlin, 340 families have been quarantined after 70 cases were detected in seven neighbouring blocks of flats.

In a speech at the end of a meeting with the heads of the various Länder, Chancellor Angela Merkel “welcomed” the fact that the district had quickly and without hesitation taken measures such as the closure of schools. “This is the strategy that we are proposing so that the virus does not spread any further: to be prepared to react always, because we can have an uncontrolled infectious event at any time,” the president declared.

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