Olymel announces gradual reopening of pork plant in Red Deer, Alta., after outbreak

A pork processing plant in central Alberta has announced it has been given the green light to gradually reopen after a COVID-19 outbreak forced it to shut down for two weeks.

The Olymel facility in Red Deer, Alta., shut down Feb. 15 due to the outbreak that claimed three lives and infected 515 employees.

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In a news release late Wednesday, Olymel said it had been given approval by Alberta Health to begin reopening.

Slaughter operations were scheduled to resume Thursday and cutting room operations on Friday.

Olymel said the reopening will come with a number of strict measures. Although 1,370 employees at the plant have been tested since Jan. 1, 2021, AHS experts will be on site when operations resume and will offer rapid testing.

The company says it has added more space to the facility to enhance physical distancing.

Olymel says additional staff have been assigned to monitor and enforce the updated measures. Employee groups have been recalled to take part in training sessions covering all implemented health measures, adjustments and the action plan developed for reopening.

The meat-packing sector has been hard hit by the health crisis.

Cargill temporarily shut down plants in High River, Alta., and Chambly, Que., last year after COVID-19 outbreaks. Olymel shut down its hog slaughter and processing plant in Yamachiche, Que., and the JBS beef plant in Brooks, Alta., temporarily went down to one shift daily from two.

Cargill and JBS operations in Alberta account for 70 per cent of Canada's beef production.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021.

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