Air cooling systems used at abattoirs could be an overlooked risk factor accounting for Covid-19 outbreaks, according to scientists who have studied conditions at a meat-processing plant at the heart of a cluster of infections in Germany.
Martin Exner, a hygiene and public health expert at the University of Bonn, spent two days analysing the Tönnies plant in Gütersloh, a western German city sent back into lockdown this week after around 1,500 employees were infected with coronavirus.
At a press conference, Exner said the air filtration system in the slaughter area had contributed to the spread of aerosol droplets laden with the virus, describing it as a “newly recognised risk factor”.
The area of the plant where animals are slaughtered, gutted and cut to pieces is kept at a cool 6-10C degrees. To do this, the cooling system circulated the same unfiltered air, thus keeping aerosols in motion, Exner said. A filter fitted to the cooling system was not able to keep out the virus, his analysis found.