(adds other cases of contamination at BRF factories in Rio Grande do Sul)
By Ana Mano and Nayara Figueiredo
SAO PAULO, April 27 (Reuters) - Brazilian meat processor BRF has registered 18 COVID-19 cases in an industrial hub that employs about 3,100 people in Rio Grande do Sul state, the president of a local labor union said on Monday.
The town of Marau, where the facility is located, is just 33 kilometers (20 miles) south of Passo Fundo, where a chicken plant operated by rival JBS SA was closed down on Friday amid an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
BRF has removed some 300 workers from duty at the Marau facility, including persons in risk groups and people with headaches and flu symptoms, Alcemir Pradegan, the union president, told Reuters by telephone.
Pradegan noted that no deaths had occurred and most of those infected had recovered. He added that production was not impacted as BRF was continuing to slaughter chickens and process meat, including some specialty pork cuts like salami.
BRF declined to comment on the number of employees infected at Marau, citing a need to respect their privacy.
BRF added that employees with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, were immediately removed from their duties. They are receiving adequate treatment and will be monitored by the company’s health department until they have made a full recovery, the company said.
In the town of Marcelino Ramos, also in Rio Grande do Sul state, local health authorities confirmed on Sunday the first COVID-19 infection in the area. It occurred in a 39-year-old woman employed by BRF in the neighboring town of Concórdia, which is located in Santa Catarina state.
BRF also had a COVID-19 case in another town, Serafina Correa, the president of another local labor union, José Modelski, said on Monday.
He said the employee in question, a woman, had been placed on leave by the company on March 19.
According to Modelski, the woman was admitted to the hospital on April 3 for treatment of COVID-19, indicating that she had been infected outside BRF’s facility in Sefarina Correa. (Reporting by Ana Mano and Nayara Figueiredo Editing by Paul Simao)