Meat processing giant ABP has said that 22 members of staff at its plant in Cahir in Co Tipperary, along with 16 close contacts, have tested positive for Covid-19.

A total of 460 staff at the Cahir processing facility have been tested as a result of an initial positive case last week and the plant has been operating at limited capacity.

The company had nine confirmed cases by last Friday and further testing has resulted in the additional results.

The Department of Health said yesterday that it had been informed of 31 positive cases in Co Tipperary, more than one-third of the 92 it was notified of nationwide.

"The tests were carried out after consultation with the HSE and with their full approval and guidance," ABP said in a statement this morning.

"In line with Covid-19 protocols, all close contacts of those impacted are currently self-isolating. Testing of close contacts of positive cases at the plant by the HSE has identified an additional 16 cases."

The company said that "staff safety and public health is our priority" and they will continue to work "proactively and take guidance from both the HSE and the HSA" in relation to the matter.

ABP confirmed last week that it also had two positive cases confirmed at its plant in Clones in Co Monaghan.

Measures taken by ABP since the beginning of the pandemic, the company said this morning, include limiting site access to essential personnel, temperature checks at the entry to the site, staggered break times, perspex partitions "where appropriate" and social distancing in canteens and other communal spaces.

The Labour Party's spokesperson on Agriculture and the Marine said today it's "essential" that a new Minister for Agriculture be appointed following, last week's resignation of Dara Calleary.

"A new minister is needed to restore confidence to farming communities," Seán Sherlock said, adding that the cases of covid-19 in Cahir confirms the party's view.

"It is clear that there are issues that need to be addressed in the industry, and it illustrates clearly why we need a minister in place."

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Meanwhile, a company with a large mushroom production operation in Co Tipperary which had at least 29 cases early last week has said it expects a "small number" of further positive results following testing at the weekend.

Production at Walsh Mushrooms in Golden is still suspended while further rounds of testing are carried out. Up to 170 people are employed at the facility.

There was speculation at the weekend that up to 40 people had tested positive at Walsh Mushrooms. The company said today that they are not given direct access to the results of testing by the HSE.

"Staff were retested on Saturday and we are awaiting the outcome of this round of testing. Early indications suggest there are only a small number of positives, relative to the total number tested."

Walsh Mushrooms said they are "working closely" with the relevant Government agencies to reopen as soon as possible "to safeguard the many jobs the site provides and supports in the area".