A pet food factory employing hundreds of staff in Co Kildare has been shut down after a number of employees contracted coronavirus.
Irish Dog Foods took the decision to close its plant in Naas last Friday after the outbreak was discovered.
A spokesman for the company would not disclose how many workers have tested positive for the disease or exactly when it was discovered. However, the State’s acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said on Thursday there had been 30-40 cases at the plant.
Those infected are in quarantine while the company is working with the Health Service Executive to manage the outbreak.
Some 200 workers are usually based at the plant, where the company said it had a raft of public health measures in place – including social distancing and temperature checks – to combat any spread of the virus.
“Irish Dog Foods have been informed that a number of our employees in Naas have tested positive for coronavirus/Covid-19,” the company spokesman said.
“The individuals involved are now self-isolating and we remain in contact with them to ensure they have the support they require.
“We are working closely with the HSE and will continue to follow their advice at all times in how we manage this issue.
“In consultation with the HSE, we have closed the facility in question to enable a deep cleaning to be carried out.”
The spokesman said staff wellbeing and safety is paramount for the company and that it had “a full range of measures in place including appropriate PPE (personal protection equipment), enhanced cleaning and hygiene regimes, social distancing measures, temperature screening and regular staff health and hygiene training and communications to help combat the virus.”
Irish Dog Foods is part of the Queally Group, which also owns Dawn Fresh Foods.
Founded in the mid-1990s, the company produces pet foods and treats at five manufacturing facilities for the Irish and overseas markets.
The outbreak comes as an infectious diseases expert warned that Ireland is in the midst of a "multitude of second ripples" of the virus which will continue for some time.
Prof Sam McConkey, head of the department of international health and tropical medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, suggested the “ripples” – rather than a second wave – could be contained with strict public health measures.
“We are having little outbreaks in a building site here, in another workplace there . . . we are already seeing multiple second ripples, and we need in place really effective ways of getting testing, getting contact tracing done and maintaining the strict self-isolation and then changes to the workplace and changes to people’s activity so people don’t spread it.”
Mr McConkey said the ripples of infection “unfortunately will continue” for some time.
His assessment follows remarks this week by Margaret Harris, spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation, that the pandemic is "going to be one big wave" rather than a series of waves.
“It’s going to go up and down a bit. The best thing is to flatten it and turn it into just something lapping at your feet,” she said.
Mr McConkey told RTÉ’s Today with Sarah McInerney on Wednesday if people in Ireland “keep on message and do what we have all been asked to do” then it may be possible “to have a good life, with schools and pubs and socialising going on, without a massive increase in the virus”.