More than 500 cases of coronavirus in Ghana, have been traced to one worker at a fish processing facility in the seafront town of Tema. The outbreak represents more than 11 percent of Ghana’s total COVID-19 infections to date, and the largest number of infections in West Africa.
“All 533 persons were infected by one person,” Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a statement. According to Akufo-Addo, the infections began in the last week of April and continues to spread.
How the infection spread so rapidly, or if the factory was following suggested distancing measures, has not been made public, Reuters noted.
The infection spread throughout the Thai Union Group Pioneer Food Cannery Limited plant in Tema. Thai Union is one of the world’s top tuna producing canneries. But the city’s only other fishery, Cosmo Seafoods, is also reporting workers testing positive for the virus.
According to Worldometer, more than 5,700 people have been infected in Ghana, more than 500 have recovered, and 29 people have died. The country says it has tested more people—over 160,000—than any other African nation.
“The implementation of our strategy of aggressively tracing, testing and treating is our surest way of rooting out the virus,” Akufo-Addo said in a statement.
The outbreak in the fishery mirrors the outbreaks in slaughterhouses and meat processing facilities around the world. Across the U.S., thousands of industry workers have tested positive for COVID-19. More than 30 workers and four USDA inspectors have died as of last week. The widespread infections result from the required close working proximity in slaughterhouses and processing plants; many line workers stand “elbow to elbow” for entire eight-hour shifts.
Despite the risks, President Trump signed an executive order last month forcing meat processing plants to stay open. The goal was to avoid nationwide meat shortages, but shortages are already impacting the industry. Retailers including Costco have begun limiting meat purchases, and fast-food chain Wendy’s has pulled beef off of select menus. The beef industry is facing a 23 percent drop in earnings as a result of the virus.
The fishing industry has already seen sales decline by more than 30 percent since stay at home orders were issued. Section 12005 of the recently approved U.S. CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, authorizes the Secretary of Commerce) provides $300 million to NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) fisheries affected by the novel coronavirus.