Some of the infected workers at West Flemish meat processing plant come from Northern France

The Mayor of the West Flemish municipality of Staden Francssco Vanderjeugd (liberal) has said that it is out of the question that a meat processing plant in the village of Westrozebeke where 67 employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus will have to close temporarily. Mr Vanderjeugd told VRT News that “On site testing is now far more important than closure”. Of the 67 people working at the Westvlees meat processing plant that have tested positive for the novel corona virus, 19 come from across the border in France. 

Speaking on VRT radio, Mr Vanderjeugd said that while there is concern there is certainly no panic about the situation at Westvlees.

On Tuesday 6 workers at the company’s meat cutting department tested positive for the novel coronavirus. All the 225 workers at the meat cutting plant were tested on Wednesday and just over a quarter of them (67) were found to be COVID-positive. Of those for whom their place of residence is known , 19 of the 67 positive cases were among workers that live over the border in France.

A large number of workers at Westvlees come from towns and villages over the border. The area of France near to the border with West Flanders has been a so-called “orange zone” on the Belgian Foreign Ministry’s coronavirus map for some time. This means that those returning from a trip lasting more than 48 hours there are supposed to quarantine. However, this doesn’t apply to people that cross the border to go to their place of work. It is still unclear whether cross border commuting by Westvlees workers served to fuel the rate of infections at the meat processing plant.

Westvlees’ product manager Manuel Goderis told VRT News that the cooling system at the plant may also have been a factor.

Meanwhile, the Acting Governor of West Flanders Anne Martens is meeting with French officials to discuss the issues at Westvlees.

The meat cutting activities at Westrozebeke have been transferred to a sister company for the time being. Westvlees Westrozebeke’s other activities will continue as normal. For the time being at least, workers at the plant’s other departments won’t be tested. However, it might be decided to do so later today if the Flemish Care and Health Agency advises the company to do so.  

At a meeting of a number of Mayors of municipalities in the south of West Flanders it was decided that there is no question of forcing the Westvlees factory at Westrozebeke to close.


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