July 6, 2020 / 7:50 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil's JBS says 2.2% of workers at its Goiania beef plant have COVID-19

(Adds details from ruling, background on dispute)

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO, July 6 (Reuters) - Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA said 2.2% of workers at its Goiania beef plant have been placed on leave after testing positive for the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, a statement sent to Reuters on Monday showed.

The unit employs 900 people and remains in operation.

The statement came in response to a question about whether JBS would comply with a labor court decision handed down by Judge Camila Vigilato on July 2 ordering the company to test all workers at that facility after an outbreak.

In a lawsuit filed in the state of Goiás afterward, state labor prosecutors claimed that 64 people at that JBS facility had tested positive for COVID-19, compared with the almost 20 cases confirmed by JBS.

The labor prosecutor’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

JBS has had a pork plant and a poultry plant banned from exporting meats to China after outbreaks of COVID-19. Both are located in Rio Grande do Sul state.

Brazil has a total of 102 meat plants authorized to export to China, according to the Agriculture Ministry, which is trying to reverse the bans.

Six Brazilian slaughterhouses have been suspended by China amid concerns over the coronavirus, including one operated by BRF SA on Saturday.

In her ruling, the judge also ordered JBS to isolate all infected people and those who may have come within a 1.5 meter distance (5 feet) of a sick colleague in Goiania.

JBS said it is continuously monitoring the workforce and tracking suspected cases. The company said that it complies with federal and state health regulations, declining to comment specifically on the lawsuit. (Reporting by Ana Mano Editing by Chris Reese and Will Dunham)

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