More than 650 new coronavirus cases reported at German meat processing plant

More than 650 new coronavirus cases reported at German meat processing plant
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Germany is working to fight back against a new coronavirus outbreak after 650 workers at a meat processing plant recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Toennies, the company that owns the meat processing facility in Guetersloh in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, was forced to temporarily shut down the plant Wednesday.

Gereon Schulze Althoff, the director of quality management and veterinary services at the company, said several foreign workers had traveled in recent weeks and may have brought the virus with them, according to CNN

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Schulze Althoff said the workers’ health was the company’s top priority but conceded that maintaining social distancing would be a challenge within the plant.

"Our plants have not been built for a pandemic," Schulze Althoff said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The local government in Guetersloh on Thursday shuttered all child care facilities and schools to try to blunt the spread of the virus, but a general lockdown has not yet been imposed.

"The district of Guetersloh clearly exceeded the critical mark of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days," the city's crisis team said in a statement. 

A federal agreement among all the German states says that authorities should weigh imposing restrictions to blunt the coronavirus’s spread if the rate of new infections surpasses 50 per 100,000 people in one week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Wednesday that a nationwide ban on large events would be extended through at least the end of October and urged caution as the country’s 16 states began easing restrictions, warning that moving too quickly could exacerbate the pandemic.