COVID outbreak shuts Nova Scotia poultry plant

Province closes Eden Valley for at least two weeks

Provincial officials have temporarily shut a chicken and turkey slaughter and processing plant in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, citing recent cases of COVID-19 among employees.

Eden Valley Poultry’s processing plant at Berwick will be closed “for at least two weeks,” the provincial health department said in a release Friday.

“We know this will be a challenge for the workers, farmers and other businesses that rely on the plant, but we need to try to prevent COVID-19 from getting a foothold anywhere in the province,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a release.

Eden Valley employs about 450 people processing chickens and turkeys from farms in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Of those 450, four have been detected with COVID “in the past two days,” the province said Friday.

The plant had been closed Wednesday for testing to be conducted, the province said, noting all staff have been tested, “further results are expected soon” and retesting is also planned.

Public health officials plan to expand the hours at their current testing site in the Annapolis Valley and also open temporary facilities in the area for asymptomatic testing.

Through those sites, testing is expected to be available to “anyone who lives in the Berwick area or anywhere else in the Annapolis Valley, and all those who have had interactions with the plant,” the province said.

Meanwhile, closing the plant for two weeks is expected to break the transmission cycle, the province added.

“We haven’t seen community spread in the Berwick area but COVID-19 is a stealth virus, and having asymptomatic people get tested within the community will help us get ahead of that,” provincial chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang said in Friday’s release.

Nova Scotia and Canada’s other Maritime provinces have had relative success keeping COVID-19 at bay. As of Friday, the province has seen just over 1,400 cases of the disease since the beginning of the pandemic, with 65 deaths.

Eden Valley has been in business since 2012, in a renovated former pork packing plant which Maple Leaf Foods closed down in 2010 and later sold to the new company.

Eden Valley is co-owned by United Poultry Producers — a group of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. poultry farmers — and by privately-held Ontario processor Maple Lodge Farms. The Berwick plant is federally registered and approved for export to the U.S. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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