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Brazil's JBS says labor judge authorizes reopening of southern poultry plant

Brazilian meat producer JBS SA has been authorized by a labor court to reopen a plant in Rio Grande do Sul state that had been closed because of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, according to a statement late on Monday.

6 May 2020, at 1:30pm

The company said the plant would be reopened on Thursday, citing a decision by Labor Judge Luciano Cembranel, reported Reuters.

In a separate statement, the labor prosecutor's office said Judge Cembranel determined late on Monday that all JBS workers in the town of Passo Fundo, where the plant is located, should be placed on leave for 14 days.

The quarantine period dates from April 24, when the plant was ordered shut by labor auditors from the economy minister, the labor prosecutor office's statement said.

Prosecutor Priscila Schvarcz told Reuters by telephone on Tuesday she would try to appeal the decision to reopen the plant so soon, saying it would put people's health at risk.

"We are evaluating legal challenges to try to reverse the decision, although the courts have been resistant," Schvarcz said.

JBS' Passo Fundo plant was closed after labor inspectors found 19 workers at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the labor prosecutor office's statement said.

Currently, the company has 66 confirmed cases among employees, including workers on leave or in the so-called incubation period, the labor prosecutor office's statement noted.

The plant employs about 2,600 people.

As the disease spreads in Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, other meatpackers in the region also face the prospect of closures over health concerns.