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Thai virology guru says meat is safe for consumption despite COVID-19 outbreak

17 May 2020

Thai virology experts reassures public that it's safe to eat fully cooked meat amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“According to the research from China, COVID-19 cannot be transmitted to farmed animals,” says Prof Dr Yong Poovorawan, Head of the Center of Excellence in Clinical Virology at the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University.

He added that felidae such as cats and tigers can catch the virus. However, there has no proven link between pets and COVID-19 infection in human.

The Thai well-known virologist suggested consumers avoid eating foods that are not fully cooked to minimise the risk. The COVID-19 virus will be killed if the meat is cooked at proper temperatures.

Despite no evidence of animal-to-human transmission, food producers still need to implement stringent health and safety measures, especially on personal hygiene. Wearing facemasks and washing hands frequently should be compulsory at work to keep both workers and consumers safe from viral droplets expelled in coughs and sneezes.

Most importantly, workers who display symptoms of the coronavirus must leave the site immediately. If the worker is found sick, other colleagues who worked in the same production line area or contacted the sick person need to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Dr Yong recommended that the infected area must be closed for a day and cleaned with chlorine or alcohol-based sanitisation. However, it is not necessary to shut down the entire plant.

“What we fear the most is a transmission in plants or any high-density areas. Therefore, stringent measurements, focusing on social distancing and physical distancing, are necessary. Large gatherings in the workplace, especially during shift rotation, shall be avoided,” he said, pointing that “If anyone is found sick, the rest of them must be in quarantine. Consequently, there will be less manpower in the production line.”

He stresses that food producers need a clear response plan to ensure that production line will not be disrupted. Each shift should be completely separated to avoid mass infection.

Moreover, workers must be prepared to follow the guidance. In case of outbreak, the new team must be able to fill up people in quarantine immediately since it is impossible to shut down a production for 14 days.

He emphasises that the importance of controlling respiratory illnesses during rainy season as the seasonal of cold. The higher number of respiratory infections means it will be more complicated to diagnose the coronavirus. The hospitals must run a number of tests to separate between a common cold with COVID-19.

“Thai people must keep the discipline and follow government’s health and safety recommendations, such as eating cooked foods, wearing face masks, and maintaining social and physical distancing. If 90 percent of us are following these practices, the damage, on both human life and the economy, will be significantly less than in the western countries.” he remarked.



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