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Testing finds 74 Covid cases at AquaChile salmon plants

Tests on more than 800 workers have revealed 74 cases of Covid-19 among employees at two processing plants run by Chile’s largest salmon farmer, AquaChile, in Quellón in the province of Chiloé.

The company said the infections “are social and mostly are the result of personal life contacts”.

Chiloé has witnessed a sustained increase in Covid-19 cases, mainly in the commune of Quellón, which is home to a number of processing plants. For this reason, the plants in the area agreed with the authorities to apply PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests to all their workers and to restart shifts only with those who are not positive for the coronavirus.

María Fernanda Matamala: 65 people placed in preventative quarantine.
María Fernanda Matamala: 65 people placed in preventative quarantine.

824 PCR tests

María Fernanda Matamala, head of the Chiloé provincial office of the regional health ministry, said: “On Friday an inspection was carried out at the AquaChile plant in Quellón as part of the review of the results of the application of the protocol for the active search of Covid-19 cases that the company carried out between Monday and Wednesday of last week.

“As established by the ministerial guidelines, the company carried out 824 PCR tests on its workers, and looking at the totality of the results, they show 74 people positive for Covid-19.”

As a result, Matamala added that 10 shifts had been halted and 65 people, in addition to all positive Covid-19 cases and close contacts, had been placed in preventative quarantine until epidemiological investigations are completed. This was done to prevent the spread of the virus by those who may be incubating Covid-19 but show no symptoms.

‘Infections are social’

AquaChile told Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site, Salmonexpert.cl, that all health information and people’s data is managed and delivered exclusively by the health ministry.

“What can be said in this case is that the traceability of the positive cases detected shows that the infections are social and are mainly the result of personal life contacts,” said the company.

“To date, and since last Thursday, the AquaChile plants in Quellón operate only with people with negative PCR results. In addition, and until Quellón returns to normal, it is an obligation that 100% of the operators perform a free PCR [on workers] every 15 days.”

Humanitarian flights

In addition, “all workers have voluntary and free access to free PCR seven days a week, in order to give peace of mind to all work teams”, said AquaChile. “All Covid-19 procedures inside AquaChile plants have been certified by [safety at work organisation] the ACHS. AquaChile works tirelessly to offer safe working conditions.

“As a contribution to the community, AquaChile has offered to collaborate with authorities on humanitarian flights to remove seriously ill people from the commune from the archipelago and has also offered to finance sanitary residences if the health authority deems it appropriate.”

The number of positive Covid-19 cases will also be soon known in the Salmones Austral, Marine Farm and Yadran plants which operate in the Quellón commune following their commitment to test all workers.