Intel has confirmed a Covid-19 outbreak on the construction site for its new manufacturing facility in Leixlip, Co Kildare.
The chipmaker, which recently announced plans to create 1,600 jobs as part of a $7 billion (€5.8 billion) investment, said that about 70 cases had been confirmed to date but that the situation was “fluid”.
The company said health authorities have been informed of the outbreak and that follow-up testing had identified additional cases. All workers at the site have been informed of the situation.
“We are working to support our construction team in whatever way we can – to understand what has happened in this situation and how it can be addressed with corrective measures,” a company spokeswoman said.
“For all confirmed cases, contact tracing was conducted and any other workers who may have been exposed have been required to self-quarantine and monitor their health. Additional testing of workers at the construction site is being carried out and any affected areas are subject to deep cleaning and disinfection.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar played down the outbreak in the context of the size of the site and the number of staff.
“I think it’s important to say, though, that that is a huge site. It’s a multi-billion euro investment. I think there are several thousand construction workers,” he told RTÉ’s Drivetime. “So an outbreak of 70 in a small confined space like a meat plant is very different to a huge site like that.”
The Leixlip site is said to be the largest in the State, employing some 5,000 workers.
Leixlip-based Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said she was concerned at the outbreak on the site, which has remained open throughout the latest lockdown, while most others have been closed.
Ms Murphy said the workers on the site come from all over Ireland and many are bussed in as car parking is a distance from the site.
She said she understood the cases were picked up on after one worker tested positive and the rest were identified by contact tracing. She was told by Intel that the HSE intends to do antigen testing for other construction staff on site.
“It’s a very big outbreak. We know how transmissible this virus is. There is an urgency about this. We could quickly find ourselves going backwards, primarily because we need to break the chains of this,” she said.
“A huge effort needs to go into making sure that this is not more widespread.”
Cllr Joe Neville said the disparate nature of the workforce has meant that the cases have not shown up in the Covid-19 numbers for Co Kildare, which last summer faced restrictions due to a number of large outbreaks in factories.
“It’s a construction site and you don’t want it getting into the community, but it is a self-contained site,” he said.
“There is a level of concern as there always is with Covid-19, but it doesn’t necessarily translate in the same way as a community outbreak.”
Intel last month announced plans to more than double the manufacturing space at its Irish operation as part of a global plan to accelerate its chipmaking capabilities and revive the company’s fortunes.
The company said it was investing $7 billion in the Irish business in the three years up to this coming December as it expands its base.
The company first established operations locally in 1990 and employs about 5,000 people in Leixlip.