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Union calls for Quebec slaughterhouse to be closed after COVID 19 outbreak

The Olymel facility in Anjou is seen Tuesday, March 24, 2020 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL _ Fifty-four workers at an Olymel pork processing plant in Quebec have now tested positive for COVID-19, the company said Thursday.

The union that represents workers at the plant is calling for it to be closed temporarily.

However, Richard Vigneault, a spokesman for Olymel, said the company is following guidance from public health officials who have not recommended the plant be closed.

More than 1,200 people work at the plant in Vallee-Jonction, about 55 kilometres southeast of Quebec City.

One worker died Wednesday after receiving a positive test result for COVID-19 the day before, the company said.

Olymel doesn’t yet know whether the death of the longtime employee was caused by the novel coronavirus, Vigneault said in a phone interview Thursday.

The union, which represents 1,050 workers at the plant, said in a statement Wednesday evening that sanitary measures put in place during the first wave of the pandemic had been relaxed over the summer,

Vigneault said workers are being encouraged to get tested and the plant is following public health directives, with a zero-tolerance policy for employees who don’t follow the rules.

Quebec reported 1,033 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 20 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

Public health authorities said the number of hospitalizations declined by 12 to 553, while the number of people in intensive care rose by seven to 101.

The province has reported 97,321 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 6,094 deaths linked to the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2020.