Processing plants in Quellón are testing all their workers for Covid-19. File photo: Salmonexpert.

Mass Covid testing at Chilean salmon plants

Salmon processing plants in Quellón in Chile are carrying out mass testing of all their workers following an upsurge in Covid-19 infections in the commune.

From Monday, only workers who have had a negative PCR test for Covid-19 will be allowed into the plants.

The precaution was agreed on Monday at a meeting between health, provincial and community authorities, salmon farming companies, workers’ unions and representatives of social organisations in Quellón.

Marta Oyarzo: "Companies can help reinforce better testing in the commune."

Everyone tested

Union official Marta Oyarzo, spokesperson for the National Coordination of Workers of the Salmon Industry and Related Branches, told Fish Farmiong Expert’s Chilean sister site, “Our position as workers, and that was raised at the meeting, is that companies can do a massive test with PCR to all workers in the industry.

“Starting next Monday, only those who have had a negative PCR can go to work and the idea is also that companies can help reinforce better testing in the commune and a better traceability of active cases.”

Oyarzo said the workers’ request was immediately accepted by the companies. “Already in all the plants in Quellón workers have begun to be tested with PCR. In our plant (Yadrán) more than 50% of the workers have been tested with PCR (by Wednesday afternoon).”

Sanitary gap

Milton Castaing, deputy manager of human resources for Salmones Austral, told Salmonexpert: “All the Quellón plants are doing PCR tests on 100% of their staff this week, on internal workers and contractors.”

He added that “the idea is to start next week only with colleagues who are confirmed as negative. In addition, there will be a sanitary gap of one or two days to further reinforce the sanitation of all sectors.”

Joanna Davidovich: Salmon Council companies "are testing all their workers".

Effective measure

Joanna Davidovich, executive director of the Salmon Council that represents the Chilean industry’s biggest producers, said PCR had proved to be a highly effective measure against Covid contagion.

“The four companies in the Salmon Council – AquaChile, Cermaq, Mowi and Salmones Aysén - are testing all their workers and this has made it possible to search for positive cases before the workers enter their shift,” said Davidovich. “In addition, the active search for cases was reinforced through random tests that are carried out every day.”

“Of the four companies of the Salmon Council, AquaChile has a presence with two plants in Quellón and as of today carries out PCR on all its workers in that commune,” added Davidovich.

AquaChile and Cermaq

“So, currently all AquaChile workers in the Quellón plants are being subjected to a PCR test every time they enter the facility and it will repeat them every 15 days until the contagions in Quellón go down.

“Furthermore, Cermaq has cultivation centers in Quellón and in this case all workers are subjected to PCR before they enter their shift.”

Yesterday salmon farming executives met for the second time with the Municipal Council of Quellón to present a plan to address the rise in infections that the commune is experiencing.

Financing community testing

As well as carrying out mandatory PCR tests on all workers in processing plants, salmon farming companies will finance tests within the community.

Additionally, the industry will reinforce the sanitation of strategic public spaces in the Quellón district. It will also study the technical feasibility of installing a sanitary residence in Quellón, as well as the transfer of patients to the residences. All of the above will be done in coordination with the Municipal Health Department and the regional health ministry.

  • The commune of Quellón on the island of Chiloé in Los Lagos salmon farming region is a seafood hub with many processing plants. Some local people and politicians have blamed the upsurge in Covid-19 cases on the plants and called for their temporary closure, although salmon companies argue the factories – which have enforced wearing of PPE and other sanitary measures – are safer than other locations.