May 18, 2020 / 6:56 PM / 15 days ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil's JBS to take legal action to reopen poultry plant in Santa Catarina

(Adds details from labor authority statement)

SAO PAULO, May 18 (Reuters) - Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA will seek legal remedies after a local labor authority ordered it to close a poultry plant in southern Brazil to curb the coronavirus, JBS said on Monday.

The plant in the town of Ipumirim in Santa Catarina state employs more than 1,400 people and processes some 135,000 chickens per day, the company said in a statement to Reuters.

It was closed after an inspection by labor authorities under the Economy Ministry, said the labor prosecutor's office in the state in a separate statement.

The inspection "found serious irregularities, mainly related to the absence of safe distancing between workers on the production line and the lack of oversight measures to control the spread of the virus," the prosecutor's statement said.

JBS called the closure order unjustified, citing strict prevention protocols against the spread of the coronavirus at all its units.

According to labor authorities responsible for the inspection, 86 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed at that JBS plant, representing almost 5% of the estimated 1,500 workers there.

The cases registered at the facility represent almost 2% of all COVID-19 cases in Santa Catarina state and 14% in that region, authorities said.

JBS' plant in Passo Fundo, Rio Grande do Sul state, has also been ordered shut after an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. (Reporting by Ana Mano, Editing by Franklin Paul and Richard Chang)

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