A multi-agency operation has swung into place after a major escalation in positive Covid-19 cases at an Angus abattoir.
NHS Tayside said there are 19 confirmed cases at the Quality Pork Limited plant in Brechin.
Slaughterhouse bosses are believed to be considering a shutdown of the plant.
Meetings have taken place throughout Friday after the number of positive cases linked to Quality Pork Limited’s Brechin abattoir rose significantly.
NHS Tayside Associate Director of Public Health, Dr Ellie Hothersall, said “Nineteen cases of Covid-19 connected to the Quality Pork Processors in Brechin have been identified.
“The processing factory is working closely with NHS Tayside’s Public Health team, Food Standards Scotland and Angus Council Environmental Health Team and all arrangements for contact tracing and self-isolation are in place.
“The multi-agency Incident Management Team (IMT) will continue to keep the situation under close review.”
The company is due to release a statement on the situation.
However, one community leader has branded the lack of information about a potentially significant local Covid-19 outbreak as “unhelpful”.
Staff were told at the beginning of this week a colleague had tested positive for the virus.
The news was followed by a number of other confirmed cases.
A double figure staff tally at the Montrose Road plant has been advised to self-isolate.
A source said slaughtering of pigs was continuing on Friday but other parts of the processing chain have already been scaled back.
Community leader calls for clarity
Brechin Community Council chairwoman Jill Scott said: “There is clearly something going on at the abattoir.
“I think we would like to have seen some clarity before now.
“This has been developing throughout the week but accurate information has not been available.”
She added: “Whatever steps are taken by QPL, this just serves to highlight the importance of everyone sticking to the rules and doing all they can to stay safe.
“Brechin is a small town and it could be decimated if a coronavirus outbreak gets a hold.
“I hope the company take the necessary steps to get this situation under control as quickly as possible.
“I would urge everyone to look at this and remind themselves to stay safe from this terrible virus.”
Brechin and Edzell councillor Gavin Nicol said: “QPL is a major employer in Brechin and Angus and I hope any outbreak can be quickly contained.
“The welfare of staff is the key priority.”
He added: “There is also an animal welfare issue to be considered here.
“Pigs are bred to a specific weight and delays in processing could mean significant losses to farmers and the housing of extra animals not killed.”
The Brechin plant processes around 6,000 pigs each week for markets at home and abroad.